‘Would the real Simon Carter please stand up?’
It’s not often that I get an irate customer on the phone. There are two reasons for this; firstly, the vast majority of our customers leave my stores very happy, and secondly, if there is a problem, it can almost invariably be resolved by one of my team.
So when the call came through last week and found its way up the food chain to my alpine eyrie, I knew it was serious. ‘There’s a gentleman on the phone who’s very unhappy that he was served by a Simon Carter impersonator’, said the Deputy Assistant Director, Client Relationships and Care Management.
And Mr Faisal was, indeed, a very unhappy customer.
He’d been to one of my branches where the manager is what could be termed, ‘a character’. Now I’ve written about this before. I’m a great believer in having a big personality to be ‘front of house’; someone who can embody my brand and that the customers really enjoy meeting. The plus side is that they do convey a sense of style and values of the brand. The minus is that, very occasionally, banter and bonhomie can be misconstrued. Such was the case with Mr Faisal.
He’d been trying on a jacket when he asked, as overseas visitors often do, if there is a real Simon Carter. ‘Sure,’ said my Manager’, it’s me’. Now this kind of schtick is fine if I’m there too, and we can make the customer guess which one of us is the real deal, but not appropriate in my absence. And it got worse. Mr Faisal was so pleased to meet, and be served by, ‘me’, that he bought a pair of my new shoes. And posed for a selfie. And shook me by the hand. And went back to his hotel, told his wife what an amazing afternoon he’d had, and went onto my website, where he saw quite plainly that he’d been served by an imposter.
Of course this should never have happened. There’s no excuse; and once the gig had started, it seemed it was hard to escape from.
I asked Mr Faisal what I could do to make it right for him. ‘I love your clothes, but it feels I’ve been lied to’, he said.
I arranged to meet him in store the following morning to apologise. He was perfectly calm, but wanted a refund for the jacket and shoes. I didn’t blame him.
The intriguing part of this is how important it was for him to feel connected to the brand. That the sale, for him, meant so much more because he thought he’d met me. The product was still the same, but the experience was diminished. This goes to the core of successful retailing, whether it’s a branded or own label offer, boutique or supermarket.
Give the customer a genuine experience, and they’ll be back.