Customer service in the age of online shopping

It’s getting increasingly hard for physical retailers to counter the might and the lure of the likes of Amazon.

They don’t want you to visit their physical outlets. The banks, for one. Or utility providers. Even the grocery guys. It saves time, effort, energy, fuel. it’s a long list. Add to it the fact that smaller, lesser or no physical outlets will usually lead to cost-savings for the entity concerned, something that can be passed on to the customer (you and me). Now here’s a typical pickle. Say, I’d like to purchase a shirt for work, and am not particularly hung up on a brand or the shade of blue. I walk into my chosen department store or mall and browse (physically, yes) the merchandise. The in-store assistant is great – not too intrusive, neither aloof. He helps me sift through the brands, colours, and the perfect fit.

Then I leave without buying one. Why? Because now that I know what I want, I can Google it and buy the stuff from whoever is offering the biggest discount. Worked out great for me, but what good did it do for the store assistant who offered me impeccable service? Yes, that’s the pickle. Replace ‘shirt’ with a mobile phone, designer handbag, wristwatch, perfume. the question remains: what’s the incentive for offering great customer service in the age of online shopping? People often complain that store assistants tend to profile them based on whether they (the assistants) believe they’re there to genuinely make a purchase or just browse around. Good brands and stores will ensure that that doesn’t happen, but one can see why it may be happening at all.

It’s getting increasingly hard for physical retailers to counter the might and the lure of the likes of Amazon. Omnichannel – a fancy word for offering the merchandise through several platforms, including brick and mortar, mobile, online, etc. – is one option that retailers are exploring, offering the same discounts and deals in-store and online. Additionally, malls have turned into family destinations – so you pay for the experience. But how many of us prioritise good customer service over an online bargain? As they say, in the end, we get what we deserve, including the service – or lack of it.

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