My friend bought a new iPad and we went to Best Buy to purchase a case. When the salesperson came up to us in the Apple section, we explained what we wanted. Even though we showed him the tablet that we had just purchased, his first comment was: “I hate Apple.” Seriously?

He proceeded to show us cases and tell us what was wrong with them, finally conceding that they did not have any in stock that fit the iPad we had. We were more than happy to leave.

I hear all the time that brick and mortar retailers are facing two challenges: 1) more people are shopping online and 2) it is difficult for them to hire good help. I think the two problems are related. Why should I put up with a condescending salesperson in person when Amazon is happy to outline the features side by side and deliver a case that fits right to my door? We went to the store to get assistance and, ideally, an expert perspective of which product was right for my friend’s needs. We did not go to have the choice of a brand-new product belittled.

If the service is great, it will draw people into the store. I think about how nice it is when I shop at small boutiques or places where the clerks are actually helpful. If you have front-line service staff working for you, do some secret shopping and learn whether they are helping or harming your sales efforts. One bad apple can spoil the already-fragile in-person retail experience.


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