Over the weekend, I spent an hour trying on new walking boots. One hour, one shop, one assistant who never left my side in all that time and worked tirelessly, bringing me box after box of boots until I finally found a pair I was happy with. During that hour, she explained the pros and cons of different manufacturers, boot types, sole types and so on. She never once made me feel pressured: just concerned to make sure I got the right pair in the end. And I rely on someone who understands the importance of that decision. Walking boots are absolutely key to your comfort and safety; they shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment kind of purchase. Get the wrong ones and you’re likely to have sore toes, blistered heels or much worse. Like her, all the other sales assistants seemed first and foremost to be outdoors activity enthusiasts, keen to get others involved and only secondarily, salespeople.
Contrast this with a high street chain shoe store, where I’ve tried really hard to buy one specific pair of shoes. I know the style, the colour, the size – all I need is to put on both shoes to make sure they’re comfortable and then hand over the money. Not so easy. I’ve been actively ignored in 3 central London branches, twice with the display shoe in my hand, once with it on my foot. Oh yes, staff have looked right at me and met my eye – then breezed on by without giving me a chance to speak (that’s when they weren’t busy dancing to impress their mates at the till, of course). The last straw was the manager who watched me, walked away, then smiled and said a cheery goodbye as I left the shop. No sale.
This isn’t a rant against retail or even lousy customer service. Rather, it’s a rant for passion, for enthusiasm, for interest. Evangelise: tell me why your socks are the best my feet will ever wear because you’ve tried them yourself on a 50-mile trek. Show me, tell me, persuade me of your point of view. If I find your enthusiasm catching, then I’m so much more likely to buy into what you’ve got for sale. But if I think you don’t give a toss, why should I?