How were the holidays for you? Did you enjoy some well-deserved time off? Eat too much? Drink too much “cheer”? Get overly annoyed with your relatives and in-laws and beat the *&%$ out of your Uncle Ed because he … oh, wait. I digress.
Perhaps you visited a mall or two, or 20? Or, maybe you supported the locally owned stores in and around your town. Either way, and no matter your religion or beliefs, I’ll bet the holidays presented an opportunity for you to be what you are. A consumer! Yep, I’ll bet that at some point over the holidays, you were the customer.
And so, as the customer, what did you do? Did you shop around for the best price? Was availability of a certain item or service more important than the cost? Did you compare performance and levels of quality? Did you buy the first thing you saw, or did you look around and investigate all options? Did you buy on impulse, or did you have a well-thought-out plan? Maybe you did all of the above, and maybe you did none. The point is, at some time throughout the year, if not during the holidays when it’s most apparent, you are the customer. And, you have a certain way of going about your role as a customer.
When you are the customer, do you notice how you’re treated? Do you notice how you react to various clerks and salespeople working to serve you or help you with your purchase or your inquiry? If not, you should. Especially during the holidays. In my opinion, the holidays are the best time to shop, if your goal is to observe customer service (or, the lack thereof)!
If you’re an astute consumer — aware of how customer service people are treating you and interacting with you — then you’re a wise consumer.
You may also believe (as I do) that America has arguably the best consumers in the world. And, you’re one of them! By best I mean the most astute, knowledgeable, creative, demanding, unsatisfied, whiney, uncompromising, over-spending, practical, non-practical, whimsical, impulsive, frugal and gregarious consumers in the world. I bet one of each came to your shop in just the past week alone!
So, what’s the point of all this? Well, it’s two-fold. One, as a consumer, you have access to all the data and research you could ever need about customer service simply by going shopping for anything at any time throughout the year. Exercise your rights and freedoms as a consumer in this country to best determine the appropriate level of customer service you need to provide to the various types of customers and customer needs you encounter on a daily basis. Consultants are not necessary for this.
And, two, as a consumer, you should have an inherent empathy toward the plight of your customers. Perspective is the most powerful disposition in the world, and as a consumer, you automatically have the “perspective” of your customers. The more you shop and observe others shopping, the more you know about how your customers think, feel and act. The old adage, “try walking in my shoes” can be instantly realized by you with regard to your customers’ desires, wants and needs. What a powerful tool!
Speaking of powerful tools, maybe we can figure out a way to write off our holiday shopping sprees as “in-field research”? Now that’s worth some holiday “cheer”!