Posts tagged ‘secret shopper’
I watched the next episode of Mary Portas: Secret Shopper last night. Not really a good idea because she winds me up, but this week’s focus was on the sofa industry and since one of the agencies I work for has a client in that sector I thought I’d better tune in.
What really set me off this time was Mary’s assertion that customers don’t want Sales. All the people Vox Popped for the programme (and Mary too) merrily declared that they were sick of sales and didn’t believe the deals anyway.
Well, that’s what they said. Like researcher Simon blogged the other day (in a post so good I’ve now linked to it twice), what people say and what they do are often different. People are inconsistent, frequently irrational and their underlying motivations are difficult to uncover.
I’ve done quite a few furniture focus groups myself recently. When you ask people what they don’t like about furniture stores practically the first thing they talk about is the never ending sales. But dig a little deeper and ask them about the stages they go through in buying furniture and stage one is nearly always “see who’s got the best deals on”.
This is where the difference between DIY research and using a trained researcher really becomes apparent. If clients start to think all they need to do is head down the local high street with a video camera for some Insight, they’re going to come to considerably different conclusions than an experienced researcher might. And yes, the same applies to agencies sending the account exec out to do some quick and dirty research as pitch fodder. As an old boss once said to me, “good researchers tell you what people meant, not what they said”.
Mary Portas persuaded CSL Sofas to move to a ‘best price permanently’ pricing model with no sales at all. I’d love to know how they’re planning on shifting their slow selling stock…
I did warn you I wasn’t a big fan of Mary Portas, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would end up muttering darkly at the TV this evening when the first episode of her new series Mary Portas: Secret Shopper aired.
pic taken from interview here
Mary has a new bee in her bonnet about poor customer service on the UK high street and the first episode saw her turn her wrath on Fast Fashion retailers. She started by singling out Primark for criticism on the basis that they made healthy profits but had rubbish customer service; with clothes on the floor, untrained and uninterested assistants, enormous queues and so on (see your local Primark on any Saturday afternoon for details).
But what Mary failed quite spectacularly to grasp was that creating a great customer experience costs money. Cost which has to eventually be passed on to the customer. Stylish, spacious changing rooms require extra rent for floorspace and changing room refits don’t come cheap (I recon around £20K per store for the MTVtastic Pilot changing room refit shown in the same episode). Having enough staff working on the shop floor so that someone is free to go and find you that dress in the next size up means more salaries to pay. Training staff to be super smiley and helpful takes time, which again costs the company money.
You can’t have all that AND expect to be able to buy a complete outfit and still have change from twenty quid.
I’ve blogged before about how, when it comes down to it, you can have to choose two of fast, good, and cheap. In the case of Fast Fashion, Good (service and customer experience generally) and very Cheap appear to be mutually exclusive. There’s no question that Primark is Cheap. But that isn’t the same as offering Value, i.e. a Good shopping experience at the right price. Because just like every other kind of quality, you get what you pay for.
Retailers aren’t charities. They have owners or shareholders they have to deliver returns to, so “putting profit before customer’s needs” (thank you, Mary) isn’t necessarily evil. After all, if you don’t like the service, vote with your purse and shop elsewhere.
There’s an interview with Mary Portas (who regular readers will know I don’t always see eye to eye with) in this week’s Sunday Times (sorry, paywall, but she’s also been interviewed by just about every other major news outlet). Mary has a new series starting on Channel 4 called Secret Shopper, where she goes undercover to name and shame the businesses in Britain who “couldn’t give a monkeys” about customer service. But I’m afraid the contents of the article set me off on another micro-rant across the breakfast table.
If we are to believe the piece, Mary thinks it is hilarious that the editor of Vogue believes “most people are happy to look like Kirstie Allsopp in wrap dresses and kitten heels”. What’s wrong with that? Kirstie might not be at the hip and happening end of fashion, but she dresses to accentuate her best bits and always looks well turned out – and crucially comfortable in herself.
Dressing to make the most of what you’ve got and feeling great about the end result is a pretty marvellous aim for us all, whatever age, sex or income bracket we might be in. If every forty-something woman in Britain had a Mary-style stick-thin figure, colour blocked designer clothes and high maintenance haircuts as their ambition there would be a lot of uphappy women around.
IMHO, style is not about some arbitrator deciding what is and isn’t acceptable, it’s about people having the confidence and skill to make the most of what they’ve got. I’m all for giving people the knowledge and advice to achieve this and even empowering them to enlist the sales assistants of Britain to help. Just don’t be a snob about it Mary.