Whole Truth at Your Service

I am always on the alert for good and bad customer service and this holiday season is prime for detecting the Half Truths of retail.

Half Truth: I know what I’m looking for and don’t want to be pushed into buying something.

Whole Truth: I really want advice but am wary that I’ll be forced to buy more than I want if I ask for it.

Last week, a terrific associate named Trevor Dallier in the J.Crew store on lower Fifth Avenue in New York effortlessly balanced these Half and Whole Truths. I was looking for outfits for my college-age nieces. There were lots of great things on sale, but it was late, the checkout line was 15 people deep and I was feeling more stressed than creative about choosing the right cool combos.

Trevor to the rescue! His opener? “I’m a personal shopper here, can I help you put something together?” How did he choose me to help? Was it the way I was holding sweaters next to tees and pursing my lips? Was it the way I kept walking from one side of the store to the other, changing my mind from pink to black? Whatever my vibe, he picked it up. And he won my heart. He knew the merchandise and sizing tricks, had great fashion sense, mixed sale items with new ones, even added styling tips which I can pass on with the gifts. Best of all, he followed up the next day with an email, inviting me to special events, promotions and a phone relationship where he’ll snag and hold things that I want from the catalog if there are limited quantities.

This is the Whole Truth. A chain store can become a prized boutique when service exceeds expectations. A sales associate can add value and increase average order (sure beats the over-used strategy of price cutting to gain volume). The holiday shopping season which often stresses store personnel as much as their customers, can be a time to create new relationships for the new year. Simple…if only there were more Trevor’s out there.

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