Posts tagged ‘sales assistants’

The Shopping Experience – Mid-segment cars

Sometime last year, we ran a series of posts on the shopping experience for jewelry, electronics, skincare and cosmetics, high street apparel and other premium goods.

Adding to that series is this post on the experience of shopping for mid-segment cars. A few months ago, my husband and I were in the market for a mid-segment car, more specifically a sedan, with automatic transmission, ample legroom in the rear and boot space. Our consideration set consisted of Honda, Volkswagen, Skoda, Nissan, Toyota and Ford. We are both car enthusiasts and had done our research prior to visiting these dealerships for further information on the cars and test drives; not only this, through our conversations with the sales persons we’d made it amply clear that we knew about what we were looking for in the car and that we already knew a fair bit about the cars themselves.

Given below is a summary of our experience at various dealerships :

Impressive: None

Satisfactory: Honda

  • Knowledgeable staff, understood what we were looking for and told us exactly about that, weren’t gimmicky or trying to sell us anything we did not care for in our car.
  • Not only was the sales person prompt in attending to us, but when we needed assistance or needed questions answered by the accessories or finance person at the store, they were quite prompt in showing us seat cover options, color options, or different EMI plans, etc.
  • Ample waiting space and engaging reading material at the showroom.
  • While the first interaction was impressive, the same cannot be said for the follow-up conversations, where we had to end up waiting for longer, cars weren’t ready for test driving, the formalities for the test drive took longer than expected. Finally when we decided to go ahead with the car, the payment formalities took too long, the car registration personnel were not professional, in the meantime the prices got revised and there was no communication for the same and eventually they did not even deliver in the stipulated time period.

 

Not-so-good: a few examples of what we didn’t like at other dealerships

  • Despite prior appointments with a specific sales person, the person was either out for another meeting or was on leave on that day.
  • Some sales persons did not know their cars at all. For simple questions, they needed to refer to the brochure or call their manager to answer our queries. Similarly their accessories and finance teams weren’t prompt with answering our questions either.
  • Despite taking prior appointments, the test drive cars were either out for another test drive or were still being prepped for the test drive.
  • Did not have ample seating space in the showrooms, so we were kept standing and waiting to be assisted.
  • Did not understand us, their customer, at all. In some cases, they did not really talk about the features of the car, instead demonstrated things like how to take the driver seat back and forth, how to turn on the AC and audio system, etc. Now if they understood us, they’d have also understood that we weren’t first time car owners and did not need to be shown such obvious things. In the bargain, they did not focus on the more important or uncommon aspects like fuel economy or sports gear or valet lock feature or parking sensors, etc.
  • One of the companies called us up with a new deal everyday!
  • Called up everyday to find out if we’d reached a decision despite making it amply clear that we’d get back to them the following week (‘cause we still had other cars to check out). Sometimes we got multiple calls in a day from different car/ accessories sales staff to ask the same questions.

Our verdict: Overall, a C. Major scope for improvement. While speaking to a lot of the sales representatives also realized that the attrition rate in the industry seems quite high; as only 1 out of the 6 sales people we interacted with had been with their company for over a year, rest had been employed with the firm for only  4-6 months.

  • Roshni Jhaveri

[Disclaimer: This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the sales staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.]

Advertisements

October 25, 2012 at 9:09 am 7 comments

The Shopping Experience: Electronics

Now that the format of these posts is familiar, dear reader, do allow us to cut to the chase :

 

Impressive : Bose

The sales assistants at the Bose store are good. They are polite, know the products and their features, and encourage you to take a look at the products. Even if you tell them that you are definitely not buying, they are enthusiastic about demonstrating the superior quality of the product through a demo (vital to convincing customers in the audio equipment category). You select a song from their list, they tune the system for maximum sound quality, let you hear the entire song and ensure that you walk away impressed with the equipment and their behaviour.

 

Satisfactory : Sony

We’ve also noticed that the staff at the Sony showrooms tends to be helpful. They patiently took us through all the features of a few laptop models, and simplified details when one of us asked a few doubts in a very confused tone. Point in their favour – they never smirked, even when asked to repeat simple details multiple times, or to simplify them further.

 

While I wouldn’t say that salespeople at all Croma stores are as good, one gentleman at the Kandivili (Mumbai) outlet did impress me. He was especially polite and reassuring to an elderly man nervously buying a laptop, explained all the details to him, helped him fill out the form for a data card and install it, and then gave the old man his personal cell-phone number to call in case there was any further help needed.

 

Not-so-good, a few examples of what we didn’t like:

  • Salespeople at some branded outlets seemed uninterested in actually speaking to consumers. In one outlet that we visited, one person was busy at the cash counter, two were chatting to each other and a fourth was standing outside the shop and speaking to someone on his cell-phone. ‘Sales assistance and us! Naah, we’re mannequins, part of the decor.’
  • Others had limited product knowledge, and did not show any enthusiasm to even try and find out the answer to a question, seemed a bit sulky too; maybe they felt the brand was a powerful enough draw on its own.
  • After-sales service seems to be one key feature that needs improvement. An anecdote from Nafisa below :

We wanted a certain not-in stock part and thought the salesman promised to call when it arrived and took down our contact details, we never heard from them again.

 When the unit needed servicing and I dropped it off at the service centre, no one said a word to me – I mean not a word, I had to ask multiple questions to figure out what was happening and what to do, when they would let me know, etc. They only promised to call when the unit was repaired so I could pick it up. Of course, they didn’t, I finally had to complain at the customer toll free number and even then they didn’t call up. I had to make multiple calls over 2-3 days after the due date, to the service centre before they told me it was ready.

 (S, you will recognise the similarity between the episode below and the one with your bag that you mentioned as a comment after our apparels and accessories post)

 

Grade given by the Escape Velocity team: A few exceptions that surpassed expectations; overall, a B.

 

Next Stop: To wrap up this series on shopping experience for premium branded goods in India, we’ll discuss some reasons for why the sales (and after-sales) service is in the state that it is in.

 

By,

 Escape Velocity Team

 [Disclaimer : This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.

Outlets mentioned in these posts will differ widely in terms of pricing, degree of premiumness and image; for the purposes of these blog-posts, we are still tackling all these outlets together.]

 

 

August 30, 2011 at 5:51 am 10 comments

The Shopping Experience: Jewelry

The format we will follow in this post is the same as in the previous posts in this series:

Impressive: Kiah, Tanishq

Kiah:

  • Sophisticated and well-groomed sales and support staff; salesmen in blue shirts and the sales ladies in dark blue saris – look far more professional than those in traditional jewelry outlets
  • The sales staff was very cordial. We asked to see diamond earrings, after they sat us down in the right section, they asked for basic information such as our names and then addressed us by name throughout the conversation; also asked us whether we’d like a glass of water, tea or coffee, not just before we selected a piece but even before they began showing us jewelry (as you read through this post, you’ll see that this is quite unusual!)
  • Our saleslady also asked very politely about our knowledge of diamond quality, when we professed ignorance, she explained grades and colors to us and then told us about the quality of diamonds used in their jewelry pieces; she explained the facts to us in enough detail to keep our attention but did not get too technical.
  • They were also quick in catching on to what type of designs we liked and after showing us a few trays of jewelry, they themselves started sorting the jewelry to our tastes.
  • One of us visited the store with our aunt to look at higher-value diamond sets. After putting aside a couple of sets and inquiring about their prices and details, even when we were about to leave (without a purchase), they were really friendly and took down our name and phone number to stay in touch incase more designs and jewelry of our interest came in. And, not only did they call back when new pieces came in, but when our aunt revisited the store, they remembered her as well as the sets she’d liked earlier, and while showing the new pieces, they also brought out the earlier ones, for her to compare.

Tanishq:

  • Very welcoming staff
  • All pieces of jewelry clearly state the quality and color of diamonds on the little tags attached to them (haven’t seen this in any other jewelry store) and the sales persons did not try to make up things like “diamonds are super-deluxe quality” neither did they pretended to be making frantic calculations on their calculators when asked for a price to offer the “deal for the day” – this immediately won our confidence.
  • That said, a recent experience at Tanishq was remarkable: I bought a piece of jewelry from there for a gift, but my parents didn’t completely approve of my choice. So I went back to the Tanishq store the next day, armed with not only the jewelry, bill and certificate, but also with a million reasons and arguments for why I wanted to exchange the piece I’d just bought the previous day. As soon as I walked into the store, I was greeted with a warm welcome and I asked to speak with the saleslady who’d helped me the previous day. She promptly came to where I was seated and I told her that I wanted to exchange the jewelry; while I argued in my head about how to form the argument for the return she interrupted my thoughts with “… no problem madam, just select something else you like and we’ll settle the difference in the end.”

Just like that!!! No explanation asked!!! For a big ticket item like this one!

They invested as much time in me as they’d done the previous day, without a frown, knowing that I wasn’t going  to generate any new revenue for them and/or additional commission for the sales assistant. Kudos to their customer service. And for making my purchase experience so smooth and easy.

  • Note: This is the only brand across all categories we covered for our research, where we’ve seen excellent after-sales service, where they not only met but surpassed our expectations.

 

Satisfactory: Orra

  • Staff are polished compared to those at traditional jewelers; Salesmen in neat blue shirts, well-groomed. They were very welcoming and approachable.
  • When asked for price and details of a pair of earring we liked, we weren’t given any clarity on the diamond grades used and instead of just giving us the price, he offered to make a “good deal” for us and then told us the price. While this may be common practice at traditional jewelry stores, in a modern format it felt slightly gimmicky.

 

Unsatisfactory, a few examples of what we didn’t like:

  • Shabby doorman, unshaven sales persons, unshaven owner – typically observed in the more family-run standalone jewelry stores.
  • At one of the leading jewelry chains, the sales staff wasn’t welcoming, didn’t offer us a seat, neither did they ask about what we were looking for, nor did they initiate any conversation with us. Only when we started asking questions about their different jewelry lines and diamond quality, etc. did they share information.
  • At some stores, they only offered water/ tea/ coffee after we had already spent some time looking at jewelry and had set some pieces aside.
  • Also, some sales persons insisted on finding out our budget even before showing us one piece of jewelry. Even when we clearly stated that we didn’t have any budget constraints and pointed at a pair of earrings that we wished to see, the sales persons refused to take it out without knowing our budget …“Phir bhi madam, kitne tak ka dekhna hai”.
  • Also, some sales persons, even without asking for a discount, started offering ‘a special rate, just for you’-type of deals. They made us even more suspicious of the original quoted price.

 

Our verdict: The grade for the performance of staff at stores we were impressed with would be A+, the rest get a B.

Next stop: Electronics.

 

By,

Escape Velocity Team.

 

[Disclaimer: This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.]

August 24, 2011 at 5:20 am 15 comments

The Shopping Experience: Premium Cosmetics & Skincare

The format we will follow in this post is the same as in the last post : begin by specifically mentioning those stores/brands that we think were good examples, and then give a few instances (without naming the brand) of those that were average or less than satisfactory.

Impressive : Lancome, Mac

Both brands had a lot in common – highly knowledgeable staff that were persuasive without being pushy, and were sensitive to consumer problems and preferences.

Lancome: Allow you to take your time examining products on the shelves, answer your questions and gently nudge you towards discussing your skin, it’s health and your skin care routine. From there it’s just a small step to using the viewer- with-magnification (that’s what I call it) to show you the blemishes / defects on your skin. And that device is effective ! It took every ounce of my self-control to walk away without buying a bushel of products.

(Note : My friend returned a few days later, along with a relative, and bought bucket-loads of stuff; I’m still holding out.)

Mac: Spent time with us, showed what would suit our skin the best; also, taught us how to use some of the products.

 

Satisfactory : Clinique, The Body Shop, Forest Essentials

These stores had knowledgeable staff, but not in the same class as the two mentioned above.

 

Not-so-good, a few examples of what we didn’t like :

  • Overall, little product knowledge. The sales assistant at one store started showing me sunscreens when I asked about moisturisers; at the same store, another sales assistant did not know the difference between various anti-ageing products
  • At another store, the sales assistant had no knowledge of the difference between products from two different ranges that were priced a few thousand rupees apart. After much prodding, she remembered that the expensive one had a different ingredient but she could not explain the benefit of this ingredient to us. Finally she told us that it was more expensive and that was the only difference!
  • At one store, when I picked up a bottle of moisturiser and asked about the price, the sales assistant told me that I should use a product meant for older women only, but then didn’t give me any details as to how it would benefit my skin (even my 5 year old nephew knows enough to say, “big people’s things are for big people only, and small people’s things are different”, but from anyone older, I expect details).
  • Unheeding to client needs/ preferences – either don’t know enough to respond to these or are just too lazy to check

Our verdict : The performance of staff at stores in this category was so varied that we’d hesitate to give an overall grade. Some stores get an A+, the rest get a C-.

[Disclaimer : This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.

Outlets mentioned in these posts will differ widely in terms of pricing, degree of premiumness and image; for the purposes of these blog-posts, we are still tackling all these outlets together.]

By,

Escape Velocity Team

August 16, 2011 at 5:11 am 7 comments

The experience of shopping for premium branded goods in India

A question for you, dear reader: Have you ever shopped at a top-line apparel or accessories store in India and felt that the exclusive store experience was far from satisfactory?

Our loyal reader, Nafisa, definitely thinks so. She feels that salespersons at these stores often fail to carry through on the expectations from the brand. The manner in which they fell short of her expectations:

  • At the very basic level, lack of adequate knowledge of the product. Unaware or unable to explain the USP, don’t know of competition or how their product is different / better
  • Lack of interest in the overall category which could be  crucial to the brand experience
  • At a service level – lots of aggravation for customer and rarely do they respect customer’s time. No different from cheap brands and stand-alone store
  • A level of disinterest relating to customer concerns
  • Laze / lack of earnestness– no follow up with potential or existing customers. No follow – up or feedback loop when the brand has a website with the requisite options especially for the purpose

Why we think this is important:

In all interactions and transactions in a store, the organisation is presenting itself – or part of itself – to people with whom it either has a relationship or is trying to build one. If it is to be successful, it has to be consistent and clear in what it says and does in all these relationships; in addition, the impression transmitted from all touch points with the consumer must be consistent too, i.e. in-store interactions must match what the brand promises through other media such as TV and print ads, PR etc. In-store experience is a significant component of how people sense the brand and contributes to their perception of it, especially in the premium segment, where part of the reason for the purchase is the image that is being sold, the identity or idea which the consumer buys for himself / herself through the purchase.

Nafisa’s rant on this significant issue prompted us to run this as a theme for a series of blog posts. We’ve been doing some ground-work for this series – visiting retail outlets and making observations, speaking to a few people from the industry to get their opinion on the topic etc. We haven’t restricted our work to apparel and accessories either; we’ve looked at premium brands in a few other categories too. So do keep visiting our blog regularly to know more. Also, we’d love to hear from you about your point of view on the topic, so do write in with your comments, the more detailed, the better.

By,

Nafisa De Figueiredo and the Escape Velocity Team

August 9, 2011 at 5:52 am 23 comments


Recent Posts

Categories

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers