Do all female shoppers really want to have their bra size measured?

Hojka Drozg / / Sales

All of the women that have ever had the chance to visit a Victoria’s Secret store know the true meaning of customer service par excellence. An attentive shop assistant, a fitting room the size of a small studio apartment, a sofa for men right by the fitting rooms where all the husbands, boyfriends, and friends can wait and use the free WiFi, and fluffy pink wallpaper covering three stories in perfect harmony. All of this is part of the service package that largely makes up the success of this American retailer, which currently holds about 35% of the US lingerie market.

No, women don’t line up at this store’s registers just because its products are so much higher quality or cheaper than those of the competition. They are there because the overall experience of visiting the store, from the friendly staff to the scented bags, which makes their lingerie purchases feel like investments. In themselves.

Customer service that some find outstanding will annoy others. Would you be able to adapt? Click To Tweet

I admit it: I was also impressed the first time I visited the place. By that time in my life I’d bought quite a bit of lingerie, but the assistant who accompanied me into the fitting room, measured my band and cup size, and showed me various models that were a perfect fit to my figure at least enlightened me that day, if not even changed my life.

I brought (too) many pink bags back to my hotel room that day and my wardrobe still features an impressive collection of Victoria’s Secret products. But when I returned home and told my friend about this customer experience (I finally found it truly worth using the word “experience”), she replied coldly: “I don’t get it. Why would a shop assistant measure my band and cup size if I can do it myself?”

My fluffy rose-tinted glasses fell off. Was it possible that the customer service I found nothing short of outstanding, and on which the brand has relied for a number of years, wouldn’t appeal to someone else? “I just don’t like the shop assistants touching me,” my friend said with a shrug, ordering a cappuccino.

Customer service is intended for the customers

In marketing, we talk a lot about how important it is for companies to provide as prompt, sincere, empathic, and relevant customer service as possible. This is ultimately the key to all customers’ hearts and pocketbooks! Using the Customer as a uniform fictitious person, companies then embark on the path of creating a customer service policy that will offer the best customer experience to this Customer. What about when someone doesn’t want to have their bra size measured? Or when it turns out that the Customer is not only one person, but a large group of people with different expectations, desires, and fears?

Research shows that most members of Generation Y (the Millennials) try to avoid communication with the sales staff as much as possible while shopping. Mobile technology, which has become their home environment, enables them to make most of their purchases without any (telephone or personal) contact with the sales staff. So would such customers feel good about it if, for instance, after they submitted a complaint to the online store someone from customer service called them and tried to help them solve their problem by talking to them in a prompt, sincere, and emphatic manner? Probably not. Just like my friend will probably never put on a sexy Victoria’s Secret lingerie set, these Millennials would most likely never visit such a store again.

If you want to help someone, you must get to know them first

Yes, even as well-intentioned an act as helping can evoke dissatisfaction if it’s not planned the right way. I would even go so far as to say that an inflexible customer service policy can be a fatal mistake for companies that in some cases leads not only to customer dissatisfaction, but also customer loss. For example, I stopped going to a natural cosmetics store in Ljubljana’s Old Town years ago. I love their products, but I can’t stand their intrusive sales personnel, who during my first (and last) visit to the store wouldn’t let me browse their products on my own despite my subtle and eventually not-so-subtle hints. Because they were so preoccupied with their well-rehearsed sales and customer assistance “protocol,” they were unable or unwilling to acknowledge my wishes. Even before I was able to make my first purchase in their store, I had bade them farewell forever due to my dissatisfaction. Their approach, which was probably laid out in some internal manual based on the values of friendliness and understanding (and I have absolutely no doubt of this manual’s good intentions), was far from a pleasant experience for me. Maybe because I’m overly sensitive at times or simply because I’m a woman (and you know, women never forget), I’ve never shopped at that store again, not even since they went online.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to use common sense. Click To Tweet

The power of adaptability

The key difference between customer service that creates happy customers and customer service that creates unhappy customers is the power of adaptability. Unfortunately, in both marketing and sales, and ultimately in any type of customer contact, this is largely based on the use of common sense. This would definitely have made the salesperson at the cosmetics store who drove me away stop pestering me, and it would definitely prevent the shop assistant at Victoria’s Secret from telling my friend what her cup size really is. What if we applied this common sense more often at work?


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