Thursday, December 16, 2010

Customer Service is Back!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a shopper. I don't hang out at the mall.  The thought of an all-day shopping spree makes me shudder.  I'd rather clean my oven.  

However, when I do shop for clothing, JC Penney is the place for me.  Here in Tri-Cities, we have some choices.  I tried shopping at Macy's last year.  I bought a couple of really beautiful suits and a couple of dresses. I had to take one pair of lined slacks back to have their seamstress put the hem back in after wearing them once. Same thing happened to a cute little sleeveless summer dress. Macy's is a nice place, but in my little bit of experience, carries mostly poor quality stuff.  JC Penney has their share of poor quality stuff but I shop for the Worthington name brand for my work clothes. This brand has stood the test of time for me. I  own two pair of slacks (Fundamental Things brand) I bought at Penneys that I've worn for at least 15+ years. Classic navy blue, slightly pleated in the front. I can tell when my weight has gone up too much by putting these old friends on.  But customer service?  It's back.

I started noticing that customer service was making its way back when I visited my favorite JC Penney store near Christmas last year. A guy approached me out of the corner of my eye and about scared me half to death when he asked if I needed any help. He clearly was new at it and frankly, I was so desensitized to people helping me that I quickly brushed him off. Does anyone remember the days when customers were king? I do.

When I first got out of high school (30+ years ago) and moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, I landed a job at JC Penney. I worked in the baby & toddler section first and then they moved me to bath & bedding. We had little mini classes on customer service and our job was to keep our department tidy but our main objective was to approach customers and help them get what they want. We were taught "the customer is here, they have money in their pocket, they came to buy something ... help them find it".  I do not think this is a bad thing.  It's the truth!  At least it is for me.  I have better things to do than just hang out at Penneys. I'm there to lay some money down ... I'd welcome any help with that. 

Last Saturday, I visited JC Penney only because I wanted to find a fondue pot and I had a $10 off coupon burning a hole in my wallet. While I didn't find a fondue pot, per say, I found something close to it along with a couple of turtlenecks and a beautiful off-white sweater.  I got home and discovered the chica at the checkout forgot to take that round security device off my new sweater. Nice.  Apparently, the security didn't work when I left the store, but with my luck, the alarms would go off when I took it back to have the device removed.

Long story short, after standing in line for longer than I would have liked,  on my lunch hour no less,  I explained to the nice clerk what had happened and she got a big, sincere smile on her face and said the magic words that turn me on, "well, let me take that device off for you and I'm going to give you another 15% discount on that sweater for your troubles".  I am now the owner of a pretty sweater that started out with a price tag of $65, discounted on Saturday down to $18.69, and another $5.94 credited back to my card, makes my trouble worth $12.75.  Will I go back to JC Penney for all my shopping?  Yes, you bet I will.  And, I'll tell anyone who listens that JC Penny rocks. 

I truly believe the recession has caused retailers to rethink their stance on customer service. If they want to stay in business, they're going to have to romance us once again.  I'm loving it.

love, susan

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