Do you want service with that?


Like most of you, I love my caffeine. In fact, I had my first Italian-made stove-top espresso maker in 1980.

My staff used to regard me as a tad eccentric because I had a coffee plunger and coffee mug in meetings, when all around me drank brewed coffee from filter machines in styrofoam cups. Yuk.

One young art director arrived late to a client meeting and realised she had forgotten to bring her coffee. She looked at me (her boss) and exclaimed loudly “thank god for your plunger”. The ensuing laughter and the strange beetroot colour she turned, ensured she didn’t say much else in the meeting.

If you’ve followed this blog, you’ll know I have new friends from America, nothing at all to do with the fact they are living next door to the home of “Australia’s Next Top Model”.

The family dropped in on the weekend and I made them a cup of java from my stove-top espresso maker. They commented on the wonderful coffee culture we have here in Australia, particularly compared to home.

They asked how we made our coffee and I dutifully demonstrated. Then we all went to lunch and the beach.

The new coffee-maker
The new coffee-maker

Afterwards I suggested to my bride that we get our friends a coffee-maker as a house-warming present. So the next day she went to the Mall to buy one. After an hour and four different stores – David Jones, Myer, King of Knives and another appliance store – she could not get the brand we wanted.

So what do you do when your retail store lets you down? Well these days you go online.

Within a couple of minutes we’d found the brand we wanted and it included ‘next day delivery’. This is always a claim that is difficult to trust, given the general attitude to service in our country.

But sure enough at 8.30 the next morning, in less than 18 hours from placing the order, Aussie Post knocked on our door and delivered the coffee-maker. The exact brand my bride wanted.

Now this is not a case of the interweb being better than bricks and mortar. It’s a case of the owners of the retail store not understanding customer service.

The new reality for retail stores is that they can provide a physical display of the brands they carry and sell them across the counter. But they can also provide a virtual display and arrange to get the product the customer wants, if it is not in-store.

Today’s retailer needs to put meaning back into the phrase “can I help you?” And that meaning includes going online to find what the customer wants, while they are in the retail store. Because if you cannot help the customer buy want they want to buy, when they want to buy it, you don’t just lose a sale, you lose a customer…for life!

And if you understand anything about the Lifetime Value of a Customer, you know you can lose an awful amount of money with each customer who leaves you.

Retail store owners need to provide the tools and the authority to their staff to use online services to find what their customers want, if it is not in-store. They can arrange delivery to the store or to the customer’s home or workplace. This saves the customer time and provides a valuable service over-and-above just selling the stock displayed on the shelves/racks.

Just went to make a cuppa but realised there are no grinds in the tin. Better go online. Where’s my browser?


  1. So what you’re saying is that todays Retailer needs to look for their own next top ‘retail’ model!

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