Christiane on customer service:
How to annoy your customers
Today: Making your customers solve your problems.
The book-trade, as you know, is moaning about competition from the internet. I can certainly understand, I wouldn’t want to be an independent bookseller during the Amazon & Co era. But if I’m looking for a new book, and don’t know exactly what I want, I like to go to the bookstore around the corner. I go there for advice as well. This is an area where the local bookseller can excel – with the right employees.
The nearest bookstore is in a shopping center around the corner; it has two levels. There is no elevator in the store, but there’s one in the mall. Able-bodied customers can move freely between the two floors, but I can’t. I wanted to order a guide book that Amazon could deliver in six days – too long, since we’re flying on Saturday. The bookstore can get it in two days.
The ordering department is on the upper floor, so I went straight there. In addition, I wanted to buy another book as a gift. The gift wrap counter is also on the upper floor, at the same counter. I said to the salesgirl, that I was ordering the guidebook and I also wanted the other book as a gift. “That book is on the ground floor.” I gave her a questioning look. I didn’t want to go to two cash registers (one upstairs, one downstairs, because I couldn’t leave the store with the book unpaid for), then come back upstairs to have the gift wrapped. “We don’t have an elevator, and we don’t have anyone free,” she said, and looked at my companion. “He can …”. I interrupted her: “He’s blind, you have to have the book sent up.” No one could bring it up, she insisted. She would have to go downstairs herself, she said, as if I had ordered her to run a marathon. The whole debate lasted longer than it would have taken to get the book. Finally she did go herself, it took her maybe 3 minutes. I was planning to spend almost 50 Euros, and despite this I had the feeling that I was seriously inconveniencing the store.
I hate it when a business expects customers to straighten out its own inadequacies – in this case, no elevator and too few employees. Besides the fact that my companion isn’t some paid assistant but my life’s companion, even paid assistants aren’t there to assist the German economy, only their disabled employers. People are constantly telling my companions or even complete strangers to do something: “Go down the hall and open the wheelchair entrance”, “Run to my colleague and get the key”, “Give this to that lady there, so I don’t have to come out from behind the counter”, etc.
If someone’s in a dressing room and asks the saleslady for another size, the saleslady doesn’t turn to the customer’s companion and say, “Go get your wife another pair of jeans a size smaller.” Who would buy jeans in a shop like that? That’s why the bookstore isn’t going to see me again for a while.