All the focus on CRM might make you think that the behavior of sales staff doesn't matter much. You couldn't be more mistaken. Small things can make a big difference in the retail customer experience: like whether someone offers to help you, and how that offer is delivered.
The rising threat of DVD-by-mail services such as this one has Blockbuster working hard on customer experience these days. And they are doing more than changing their late fee policy. They are trying some things to improve the store-front experience as well.
On a recent visit there, I kept seeing a fellow with a clipboard... asking people if he could help them find anything. Not only did he know where things were, he was prepared to make comment on the rentals! He helped me find The Princess Bride, and also told me what a great flick it is, that it's fun, but kind of witty too, and he definitely would recommend it to anyone.
Why did this work when so often those "can I help you" momemts are unwelcome and unhelpful? Let's deconstruct why this worked:
- First, he actually did help. Learning: staff selection and training is important. The person doing this work has to know about the store's content, and constantly be scanning for more. You need someone who wants to help people. -- this kind of attitude can't be faked.
- Second, he knew more than what was on the new release shelves. This has to be a non-judgmental experience. Movies and games are like books -- there's something for everyone, but tastes vary widely.
- Third, he didn't try to cross sell me anything -- or if he did,
it was subtle enough that I didn't catch it. No hidden agenda, just
- Fourth, once he had helped, he smiled and left. Actually he
smiled when he came up too. Obvious, but often overlooked, a friendly
face goes miles towards creating a good customer experience.
- The clipboard. This really worked as a prop -- I'm not totally sure why, but it made me confident he wasn't restocking shelves. Patrons might hesitate to interrupt someone who was restocking shelves. (I know that's crazy, but some people would definitely feel that way). There might be some badge value for the person carrying the clipboard too -- it also sets them apart from others. Or perhaps he just had new member applications. The learning here: give people the props they need to feel right in the role.
Something else I noticed -- I could actually have a conversation with this young man because they have turned the volume down! (I'm really starting to suspect that there's been customer research going on here!)
These steps are good, but Blockbuster and its brethren will need to do more to stay in the game. If I'm on-line, I can find movies by actor, by director, by title, or by genre. The store is only organized by genre. So if I just think I want to see something by Truffaut, or with Gene Hackman, no help there. (Barring the clip-board fellow, of course.) Using RFID technology, why not let customers in the store couldn't use a terminal to do just this sort of search, and even be pointed in the right direction to find the film. If the movie is out, maybe the kiosk could offer suggestions. Just as Amazon does, with their "people who bought this book also bought ..."
With better search capabilities, the storefronts would have something the mail services would have trouble matching: instant gratification.
Bricks can compete with clicks if they pay close attention to customer experience, dive deep into what people want, and work hard to deliver it.