Today I went to Nitori, the furniture and lifestyle shop (here in Japan). I quite often go there since it's handy to my place but I always find myself comparing it to Ikea. (All of the other furniture shops around here have closed down ...)
A point of note where I think they were doing a better job than my local Ikea was the number of quite helpful and seemingly knowledgeable staff circulating the store.
Maybe I'm just getting old but the staff at Ikea seem so 'high-energy' in their bright yellow t shirts. They always look busy. They're all much younger than me and I wonder how much they really appreciate my furniture needs. Ikea feels very much self-service and catering to the independent shopper who has done her research before entering the store. In fact Ikea states quite openly that prices are low because the shopper is responsible for so much herself.
Meanwhile at Nitori I noticed the average age of employee was skewing older. One grey-haired chap was walking around amiably dusting the furniture, adjusting lamps and cheerfully providing assistance where necessary. There were less hip, childless, newlyweds at Nitori and I think the company recognised that in their staffing choices.
When it came time to pay three women appeared from nowhere - one to actually process the payment and enquire whether we needed our parking validated and another two to wrap the little bedside table I was buying in plastic so it wouldn't get wet in the rain. They even asked if we needed help getting it to the car. Very stress-free and quite refreshing!
It's got me thinking about service (as you know I am always doing). Great service can be a true competitive advantage in this day and age. Just because other businesses are providing less or the trend is towards self-service doesn't mean that our customers actually support these changes. Do you agree? Tell me about your recent "great service" shopping experiences.