Does your Floor Staff Understand the Importance of Customer Experience?

On a lazy Sunday evening, I realized we’d run out of various essential household items. Having delayed a trip to the nearest supermarket for weeks, it was time to spring into action. The supermarket in question however, was shut for some reason and I was left wondering what to do. It suddenly occurred to me that I could go to the nearest Bazaar21 store (name changed), which was just across the street and procure the items I had on my list. This store is one of the leading retail chains in India, which has managed to survive in our country’s dubious market which is still dominated by your humble round-the-corner grocery stores. So surely, they must be doing something right? I walked a little further and reached the building that had the familiar blue and orange logo with its signature tagline of ‘Cheapest and best in India!’ below it.

On entering I saw many enticing offers on various items, especially in the food section. Once I was done buying all the necessary items from my checklist, I lazily picked up a few pampering toiletries and fattening biscuits as well. Happy to have saved some money on the offers, I proceeded to the billing counter after navigating my way through many families, each of which had brought along at least three generations of members. My happy tryst with this retail chain, however, was a short lived one - a nightmare awaited me!

As I finally reached the head of the long, snakelike line of customers waiting at the billing counter after a quarter of an hour, I was greeted by a bored cashier and an impatient bagging guy. Once the cashier was done, a bill of INR579 flashed on the small screen before me. He asked me whether I had a Bazaar21 card, to which I replied in the negative. I then handed him INR600, in the form of a crisp five hundred and a hundred note. He looked up and said he didn’t have change. As I was fumbling in my purse for change, he looked at me disinterestedly and pointed at the line of customers waiting behind me. I looked at him and informed him that I didn’t have any change either. Unconvinced, he pressed for change and I exasperatedly showed him my purse, which was loaded with hundred rupee notes but no coins.

He looked at the guy at the bagging counter and through this unsaid communication, the latter tore open my bag and started removing items that were oddly priced so that the total could come to a round figure. I was standing there shell shocked. This stranger was opening my bag and removing items as per his whims and fancies so that the total could reach a figure in a multiple of hundreds. I started protesting as he began removing various essential items that I needed, like paper towels. However, he indifferently kept at it till the bill reached a figure of INR500. Shocked and annoyed by now but not wanting to create a scene, I irately paid the amount and left. Meanwhile, seeing my treatment at the hands of the cashier and the bagging guy, the other customers in line got to business and started fishing for change in their pockets.

Clearly, Bazaar21 isn’t all that big on customer relationship management. It didn’t seem to matter to these people that not only were they losing customers due to their poor customer service skills; they were also losing business by returning oddly priced items back to their shelves. If you market yourselves with a tagline claiming to be ‘sasta’ (cheap) then surely, you should have some change in your cash register.

I did not want to create a scene, but at the same time, wanted to ensure that my complaint was heard. I looked around for a store manager with whom I could register my complaint and eventually reached the customer services desk. A lethargic employee was collecting forms from several of the people in front of me. In a highly competitive field like retailing, obviously, customer churn ensures failure and increasing losses. When I reached the counter, he mumbled, “Please fill in this form and post it”.

I was appalled to see that a retail chain that had become a household name across India was not equipped with a CRM solution to capture complaints and feedback. I looked at him and asked, “Don’t you have a CRM software to create, assign and escalate customer complaints or queries?” My query fell on deaf ears. Anyway, there was nothing he could do without a proper process in place.

Images of my round-the-corner grocery store with its helpful owner’s paan stained smile sailed through my mind as I dropped the form into a garbage bin and left. Even a small local store owner knew from experience that a positive customer experience ensured repeat purchases.

As I walked home devoid of the main items that I’d set out to buy, I was wondering what ever happened to the adage ‘Customer is king’? Which is when a voice in my head replied - "If the customer is king, then the salesperson can be the domineering, overbearing know-it-all queen."