DFS: The value of great customer service

Something happened to me recently – which I’ll get onto in a second – which has made me want to highlight the importance and value of great customer service. It has always been something I have appreciated, but never full acknowledged. However, since my recent customer service experience it has made me think differently about it, so I’ve listed what I feel some places are doing wrong and how to do customer service right.

I think it’s fair to say no one likes a moody Sales Assistant. We all appreciate a friendly smile, someone finding out if something is in stock and perhaps some chit chat whilst we’re paying for our items. However this is all very understated. By great customer service, I mean the salesman literally cannot do enough for you. You are the customer and all the time you are in need of his/her attention that is all that matters – and all that should matter.

It’s a fact now that online shopping is growing and the high-street is dying. More and more companies are being forced to migrate their business over to online to keep hold of their customers.

However, moving your business online doesn’t just mean customers can access your products anytime they want and quickly, but it also means they expect to be able to speak to a member of staff just as quickly and they expect nothing less than the best, most helpful and informative customer salesman and online companies have risen to this demand. The power of shopping online is that if you have a bad customer service experience, it’s literally just a case of closing the tab and going to a competitor, as opposed to the awkward “try to be polite because I’m face-to-face, even though I’m getting terrible service” scenario.

So the internet gives customers access to products all over the world, at any time of day they want and they get some of the best customer service, when they need it too. That last tip is very important – there are no slimy salesman following them and trying to give them a hard sale. So what has the high-street actually got going for itself?

Customers are now using the high-street as a form of their research. They’re going into stores, testing out the product to see what it’s like in real life and how it works / feels, before then looking on the likes of Amazon to get it cheaper. TV adverts and the idea of product research is getting people to the stores, but what’s actually keeping them there? For most stores the answer is “nothing”, but for one or two, the answer is “fantastic customer service.”

Let me tell you about an experience I recently had, which has made me re-think the need and value of great face-to-face customer service completely.

The value of great customer service is about creating an experience

Having recently bought a house, my boyfriend and I were in need of a sofa. Not really sure what we were looking for from a sofa, we gave up looking online and decided to have a look in some stores so we could try a few out.

We went to all the usual suspects looking for our dream sofa. Two of these stores, completely ignored us the whole time we were in store. No greeting. No smile. Even when we approached someone to ask them a question, we were just given a big spiel about the sales they were running, which wasn’t what we were interested in at all.

The third large furniture chain, had a Sales Assistant who did greet us and tried to give us our space, but still came across as overly needy, asking us how were getting on at every other sofa. Feeling very deflated about our terrible experiences, we visited what is now to me, the haven of all customer service experiences; DFS.

I think we’ve all seen the adverts they run; every weekend there’s a new sale! It’s the advert explaining the sale that gets you in-store, but it’s the fantastic customer service that keeps you there. It tops not only in-store customer service, but any service I’ve ever experience online too.

Visiting their Hedge-End store, we were greeted nicely by a Sales Assistant who offered to make a tea and coffee for us, which came over in proper china mugs – not those horrible plastic / polystyrene cups you get in some places. He then told us his name, gave us our space and left us to it.

Oddly enough, the addition of trying out sofas with a nice mug of tea completely changed the whole experience. I felt really comfortable; I felt at home. I was reminded of IKEA’s ‘Wembley Cats’ advert; it was the same principal. I felt like I could be myself in store, trying out the sofas and sitting on them as I would at home, putting my feet up (shoes off of course) and stretching out, to really feel what the product was like comfortably.

Making us feel this way in store is only going to benefit them really, if we can sit on a sofa as we would do at home and feel just as comfortable on it, if not more, then I think it’s practically a safe bet to say there’s a sale at the end of that.

We found a sofa we fell in love with and decided we wanted to know a bit more about it – payment options, the different types of leather, the dimensions etc… Our Sales Advisor, Aiden, could not have done enough for us. The level of commitment he offered to us was outstanding (we were in DFS for over an hour). He answered all our questions – trust me there were many – and every time he was unsure about something he went over to check with his manager and in some cases created solutions which specially fitted our needs.

We didn’t buy that day (we came back later on instead), though we had intended to buy in-store, but for all Aiden knew we could have just been researching, before then going home to see if we could find a better deal. However, despite there being no sale, that didn’t once affect the level of his customer service and I’d have to say, even if we had been planning to buy online after our visit, his level of customer service was enough to convert me into an ‘in store sale’. After that experience I’d honestly and openly recommend anyone to go buy in store at DFS than buy anywhere else online. The customer service makes the whole experience so much more worthwhile.

So what can we learn from this? What is the value of great customer service?

With the bad customer service experiences we got from the other furniture shops, our solution was simple: go to a competitor and it’s the same rule other consumers will take when shopping in store. I’m reminded of car hire company Avis’ “we’re number two, so we try harder” advertising campaign. Never underestimate the value of going the extra mile for customers.

Second of all be competent. Know your product and your business, but if you don’t know something, or an answer to a question, say so – be honest and upfront, offer to find out for the customer there and then. It won’t go unnoticed.

Lastly, this is a little bit heavy for an end point, but all purchases come down to one of two factors: it’s either a rational or an emotional purchase. The sale is either closed with their head or their heart. So be a good listener. Take the time to understand the customers needs and wants, listen to what they have to say and ask them questions. It not only helps you to fully understand them, but it also makes them feel good and like their business is welcome.

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