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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Forget P2P or B2B. It’s all about H2H

Having worked and taught in the hospitality industry for coming up to the better part of two decades now, I find the subject of service interactions to be a critical attribute to the overall experience created. Unfortunately, it is often the subject either most misunderstood or underappreciated by service professions.
Let’s take on the underappreciated in this posting.
These past Christmas holidays serve as a good example. How many stores had brilliant displays of beautiful merchandise with clear signage and information. I stood in more than a few of these stores, looking at a piece of merchandise with all of the most obvious body language that screamed out “I’m confused and have a question!!” Except I’m also watching blue shirt (or red shirt or yellow shirt – pick your store here) employees circling the section ready to ‘catch’ a sale but not willing to engage with customers.
To test this observation, I had the excuse of buying a high-end webcam and visited my local big box tech store a few weeks back. Having done my research, I stood in the aisle touching numerous products, picking them up and putting them down. Yup, I was signalling for assistance. No less than six ‘service experts’ passed by without even an enquiry. When finally I was approached, something that felt like being stalked from behind, I was asked if I had made a decision. Closing the sale already? My friend, we just met! At least say hello, comment on the weather, make an obvious but innocuous “Those are some nice cameras you are looking at!” comment. Nope. The ball was in my court.
Ok, I lob back an easy shot. "I’m stuck between these two. Is there a better one that you recommend?” Pause. Longer pause. He proceeds to read the two boxes, reads me the bold points and pronounces they appear to be about the same. Helpful. I thank him, telling him I will continue to look.
A few minutes later, after I pick up the camera I was planning to buy, I encounter the same person at the end of the aisle.
He’s waiting for me.
“If you have more questions, let me know. Can I ring that in for you?” The stench of commission sales comes off of him like overused Polo cologne at a singles bar.
The scenario here seems to be to overwhelm the customer with sales closing techniques as if managers are being taught customer service by Blake (Alex Baldwin’s character) in Glengarry Glen Ross. Somewhere, solving customer problems and building relationships have been replaced by the mantra ‘Always Be Closing”. The human experience has been removed, replaced by the hunt for commissions and the snares of a large customer base.
Don’t confuse my point here. Beyond the lack of product knowledge, I don’t blame this sales person (I cannot call him a service professional). He is simply a product of his environment and the truism that what is measured is managed.
There is also another truism. We buy and do business with people that we like.
But that’s just my two cents…WCM

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree! I get so annoyed with our store clerks who want the easy buck - and even more annoyed when people are annoyed at my annoyance. Things won't change until we demand more from our store clerks. So sadly, I think most people are ok with dealing with the status quo. I personally, would rather spend my time with someone who wants it.

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