Tuesday, March 20, 2007

River Island - good customer experience

I got ambushed at River Island last week while looking for some office wear. I mean, I was in general looking for office wear at usual suspects like G2000 or Zara, but I certainly wasn't expecting to buy anything at River Island - it just didn't seem like my kind of clothes.

But, before our show started, she wanted to go in and look at clothes. And since there didn't seem anything better to do, I went to look at the jackets.

In the end, I came out with a jacket, matching pants, and office shoes.
Well first off, the clothes were nice - stylish cut, good fit - and the price was fine - I got my jacket at just $230 and the shoes at just $105 (the pants was expensive though). But it was the customer service that sold me the clothes, not the clothes themselves.

I felt like a valued customer, worth the time of the retail adviser. First, good advice on the jacket, to help me pick out the right size once it was clear I wasn't actually sure about the sizing. Then, after Key had picked out a nice pair of shoes, commenting on the shoes and how best to find out if it was a good fit. And later on, when measuring the pants for alteration, checking what kind of fall I wanted for the pants legs.

So some of it bordered on obsequiousness. (And of course, that's flattering). But I felt like it was good advice too, which generated positive value for me far beyond looking at the clothes alones would have done. I guess that's the key, that they viewed themselves as retail advisers, like friends to the customers - kind of like going shopping with your friends and helping them pick out clothes. At least, that's what I felt like.

I was reminded of several posts by one of the FastCompany bloggers, Valeria Maltoni, whose posts focus on customer service, in particular the post "Customer Service is a Mindset". In it, she refers first to the bank ING Direct, which, in a world full of automated answering machines, has the tagline in theird ads:
“To Speak to a Person, press 1 then 800 ING Direct.”
She goes on to identify the key principle of good customer service:
...to provide a service that makes the most effective use of your money. This can mean cheap as in low cost, not in experience...
I'm re-reading this and thinking, it can also mean, not necessarily low-cost, but high-value. And in River Island's case, well-delivered advice meant that for a non-fashionable person like me, I got nice clothes at a good price rather than either buying a whole bunch of icky clothes or buying a single nice, over-priced set.

Definitely going back there to shop again if I need clothes. Maybe not the pants though, that's just a bit expensive... only reason I got it was to match the jacket for the more important occasions.

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