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.