First, what exactly IS a consumer? Well, it’s everybody. I happen to be a mom, a wife, an employee, a customer service provider, and I, like everyone else, am a consumer. So what is it that I consume? Well, I only consume food and drink, but our society has labeled anybody who buys anything anywhere a ‘consumer’. We are consumers of goods and services.
Regardless of any factor, trait, or circumstance that might otherwise separate us socially, we are 100% of the population.
As a consumer, someone who spends money, I am more apt to spend said money when I am happy with a previous purchase, when I am satisfied with the store, and when I am confident that I’m not wasting it on a bad product or service. I am more apt to simply walk out with my money still in my purse if I am aggravated by the practices in any establishment that do nothing to assist me.
So here it is. What consumers want you to know, what we want, and what we are not getting:
IN DEPARTMENT STORES
- We want to see the employees at the check-out counter out-number those at the customer service desk.
- We want the return of department specific associates who actually have real knowledge of its wares and spend their work-day in that same department. And we want the number of associates on the entire work floor to outnumber the cashiers.
- We want legible pricing, on the item, so that we don’t have to hunt somebody down who probably knows nothing about it anyway.
- We want cleanliness, organization, and order.
- We want the answers to our questions, not the standard ‘everything we have is out’ in answer to everything. We’re not stupid. We know how big your stockroom is, and we know it’s not always completely empty. We stopped believing you years ago.
- And for heaven’s sake, please put a couple of hooks on the back of the stall doors in the bathroom. We don’t want our coats and purses on the floor. While you’re at it, please make those doors open outward instead of inward.
- If you have to have a sign asking us to notify if your bathroom needs attention, you’re not inspecting/cleaning it nearly often enough.
- We want your displays to be crisp and clean. We don’t care how you arrange it on the shelf, we just want to be able to identify it, price it, and know that it will work properly and/or is capable of assembly when we get it home.
- We want single file lines so that the next customer in line waits his turn behind us, not beside us with a faster clerk.
- We want availability. Please don’t wait until an item sells completely out before you re-order your stock. And if we ask you to start selling something, we’re telling you we’ll buy it regularly. Please don’t tell us you’ve got a pre-fabbed order form from which you’re not allowed to deviate.
- The first rule of marketing is presentation. Don’t follow all the flow charts and reports so far that you forget about the work floor and how it looks. If I wanted to shop at the local bargain bin, I would instinctively know to expect messy racks, disheveled shelves, and helter-skelter placement. If it looks like a bargain bin, it’s not likely that I’ll spend the amount you’re asking on the price tag.
- Standard operating procedure incorporates the word ‘standard’. It means it may only be possible in ‘standard’ situations. If your chart says that you must have these shirts on a round rack and those pants on a t-rack, please don’t sacrifice appearance or spacing to only comply with the SOP. Use common sense based on your space availability and the comfort and convenience of your shoppers. If my buggy can’t get through, or my kid is playing with a broken t-rack, or other shoppers have squeezed through and knocked off the clothing entirely, then you’re doing it wrong and I probably won’t be back.
- I realize the chart you’ve been given says that the rack must be full so shoppers will be tricked somehow into spending their money. Your associate has already told me that ‘everything’s out’. Now I’m telling you to put some of it back in the stock room. There is such a thing as too full, and if I can’t neatly, quickly, and efficiently pull an item off your round rack to get a better look, and replace it just as easily, quickly, and efficiently, it will get thrown over the top for you to take care of later. If your store looks like this, then reference #11.
- We’ve given up on ‘friendly’ customer service. What we want now is ‘available’ customer service. Please don’t make me hunt all over the store for an associate that won’t know what I’m talking about anyway.
- If I’m in your store and I hear one of the associates remind me over the loudspeaker that item X is on sale in aisle 3, I’m probably going to go check it out. I might even purchase something while I’m there. If I don’t hear from you, I might not be in aisle 3 at all. And if the voice over the intercom is a pre-recorded operator-like and/or digital message, I’m liable to just walk out empty-handed. We’re sick of computer-generated and pre-recorded voices.
- If you’re going to provide us with carts to conveniently hold our purchases, please provide enough space between your clothing racks to pass through.
- If you stock an item in your store that requires replacement parts, please also stock the replacement parts. If we bought it there, we’re coming back for the consumables.
- We want to spend our money close to home and in the local store. Please don’t drive us to the internet for our purchases.
- Made in the USA means a lot to us. Please make attempts to stock those items. We will pay for them, and in fact, we’re consciously looking for them first.
- We want you to turn the music down. Regardless of what your engineers have told you, not everyone enjoys classic rock and/or pop. If you MUST play it, please turn it down. We’re having conversations in your establishment or listening to our own IPods in the store, and we shouldn’t have to talk overtop of (or try to drown out) what should be background music only. Put it in the background where it belongs or turn it off completely.
- Please don’t bother me with how ‘short staffed’ you are. If you know you’re short staffed, then fix it. It stops being an issue when you consciously decide to keep it that way.
- I am not impressed when you don’t write down my order in a restaurant. When you do that I am expecting that you will get something wrong. Usually, I am right. I start out thinking in terms of a 20% tip. That number routinely increases and decreases while I’m sitting at the table. It’s a running score.
- Please don’t give me two glasses of soda at the same time to save you a trip to my table to check later. The second glass gets watered down when the ice starts to melt. My tip will reflect the laziness.
- We don’t mind if you use us to train your new employee, but please be kind and courteous to the new guy in our presence. We’re more likely to return to the establishment if kindness and courtesy are openly exhibited.
- If I have to ask for more napkins, butter, dressing, rolls, etc., you’ve already not taken care of me.
- See numbers 6, 7, 19 and 20. These also apply to your establishment.
- If you have a double drive-thru lane at your fast food chain, I’m passing you up for the next one. Those things are usually not working properly. If there’s congestion, most times the vehicular order gets messed up and my order will more than likely go to the guy who got to you faster than me. Your clerk has a hard enough time doing one at a time in single file. You just doubled her workload and frustrated me to the point that I don’t want to come back.
- If you put 2 for $3 on your marquee and don’t specify the items covered, I will complain. And if you make me feel like *I* misunderstood, I won’t be back. Please do not wait until I’m handing you my $3 to inform me that my order somehow does not qualify. Clarify your advertisement BEFORE you publish it.
IN GROCERY STORES
- All of those cardboard displays in the middle of the aisles need to go. You barely give us enough room in there to begin with. Don’t clutter the aisles with displays that nobody wants to have to maneuver around. I get that you’ve placed it in front of the popular items so that I’ll see it, but all I’m doing is shoving it out of my way to get to what’s behind it. Or I’m running my buggy into it to move it aside. Or the kids are playing with it. But it is NOT serving its intended purpose which was no doubt designed by someone who does not do his own shopping. If you want to promote an item, use an end-cap. Yes, we know what those are and where to find them.
- And if you’re going to use an end-cap to promote something, please make it relevant to the surrounding items. Clearance facial care items should not be placed on the end-cap farthest from the entrance next to the wine and liquor section adjacent from the dog food. This neither does you nor me any good whatsoever.
- If you do not know the answer to a question, please don’t make one up.
- See numbers 6, 7, 9, 19 and 20. These apply to your establishment.
- If you are a large grocery store chain, chances are you have a House wares aisle that contains oil of some type. For heaven’s sake, use some on the buggy wheels so that I’m not fighting with it at every turn. If it won’t roll, please remove it from the floor until it is completely repaired so no one else gets it by mistake.
- When I call you for something, I want someone to answer the phone stating the name of the business and providing a warm/friendly hello. I do not want a computer generated menu of items from which I have to choose a corresponding number depending on my issue. If you can own a business you can hire someone to answer the phones. Most of us already know to hit a series of random buttons or just keep pressing zero and we’ll get somebody anyway. Your menu items don’t help us at all. We don’t care if they help you.
- If you’re going to tell us in your out-going message that you will call us back, please do so promptly.
- If you’ve provided both a television and magazines to your waiting clients/patients/constituents, please turn the volume down on the television so the rest of us can read the magazines or our own e-readers or listen to our IPods. Please do not turn up the television to a volume satisfactory to your hearing from the back of the building. The television, if not tuned to the channel we want individually, just frustrates us. Not everybody enjoys your political views, and tuning the station to your news channel of choice will not educate us enough to come around to your way of thinking. Either give us our own controls and individual television sets, or take them out.
- In some form or fashion I am paying you for your time and your expertise. Please treat me with courtesy and respect. If I have made an appointment with you for 11:30, please don’t leave me in a waiting area with others who also have an appointment with you at 11:30 (or within at least 15 minutes of MY appointment time). Know that your clients/customers/constituents are talking to each other out in your waiting area. We ask about our concurrent appointment times and we’re already angry with you before our meeting if we discover you’ve double-booked.
- If I have made an appointment with you at 11:30 and you’re running behind, please do not go to lunch at 12:00 and leave me sitting in the waiting area, without explanation, until your return.
So there it is, in no particular order of importance, what we as consumers want from you as business owners. We are becoming increasingly frustrated every time we walk into one of your establishments.
Thank you for listening.