Designers create interiors that make you want to shop. But do they consider the service element in any meaningful way? 20|20’s Jim Thompson comments

Designers create interiors that make you want to shop. But do they consider the service element in any meaningful way? 20|20’s Jim Thompson comments

As Westfield Stratford City opened its doors this month, newly appointed staff and old hands were trained in the latest and greatest their brands had to offer.

Nerves were hardly visible as doors opened and enthusiastic staff greeted hordes of customers for the first time. The passion and belief was palpable – ‘friendly’, ‘attentive’ and ‘keen to help’ – were all words I heard to describe the quality of service on the first day.

Of course, when you look deeper, below the customers’ basic expectations, you can sometimes find the retailer’s brand talking – where good training and brand understanding start to make a difference. This runs from the conversational approach of John Lewis, where they get to know you before being incredibly helpful in a quintessentially English way – to the glossy glamour of the new Marks & Spencer where staff not only look great, dressed in modish outfits from The Range, but also treat you as if you’ve paid extra for a personal shopper. There’s even the girl-friendly sexiness of the new Ann Summers emporium with its giant rabbit. Here sexual confidence is unleashed by an admittedly frank explanation of the products that are on offer, ahem. 

However, for many less brand aware retailers or for those challenged by today’s tough trading conditions, the winning smile may soon be replaced by the day job, the constant need to make the sale, or the fear that a mystery shopper looms.

Great service should, of course, be a given for all retail chains, not just the domain of the ‘big boys’ or dismissed as something delivered only by specialist independents. After all, customer service is finally being recognised as one of the most important ingredients of the marketing mix. So why is it so infrequently considered vital? Equally, what happens to it when a store design brief is being fashioned?

High-quality customer service creates customer loyalty. Shoppers are interested not just in the products they are being offered, but all the additional elements of service they receive, from the greeting when entering a store, to the help received when making a complaint. Retailers’ online offers are highlighting the need for enhanced service in the store. If we can find all we need to know about products and services online, when we get to the store there has to be something extra to entice us to buy.

As designers already consider the customer experience, merchandising principles, space planning and brand communication – surely consideration should also be given to the role and behaviour of staff. Perhaps it is, but the results are not always obvious. 

  • Jim Thompson, Managing director at 20|20

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