Particularly in a specialty boutique that sells premium items? In my opinion, it plays a tremendously important role. I'm no expert in customer service or retail practices, but the way a sales associate attends to a customer can either make or break your shopping experience. And in my case, if I find that the service being offered is outstanding, I wouldn't mind spending a little extra just to show my appreciation.
Case in point - the A.P.C. boutique at the Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade in Singapore.
When I visited the newly opened boutique sometime last year, I was greeted by enthusiastic employees, eager to show me around and showcase the latest collection. I was impressed. When I told them I wanted to try on some items, they carried the clothes for me, unbuttoned them carefully and hung them up nicely in the fitting room. In between all of this, I had a decent conversation with the shop manager and we talked about the difference between A.P.C. in Singapore and Hong Kong. To cut this short, the experience left me more than happy so I bought a number of items. To this day, even if I'm only browsing, I am treated with the same enthusiasm I experienced from day one.
Comme Des Garçons, Singapore
Comme Des Garçons, Bangkok
As a second example, both Comme Des Garçons boutiques in Singapore and Bangkok know what customer service is all about. The sales associates are more than happy to assist you in any way they can, they try their best to answer your queries and are far from snooty just because they're working for the cult label.
However, there are shop staff who are, sad to say, a total disappointment. It's quite sad that Surrender, which is home to some of my favourite brands like Porter, Mark McNairy, Band of Outsiders and Thom Browne, has terrible customer service. It was so bad that I promised never to purchase anything from that store. Here's what happened:
I visited the boutique for the very first time in their new location at the Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade last year. I was quite excited because I found out that this was the only place I could get a hold of Band of Outsiders in Singapore. When I stepped in, nobody greeted me, even if the shop was totally empty except for three shop staff. Two of them were posted by the Band of Outsiders section so I walked over and picked up a pair of shoes to check out the price. They saw me, but didn't really say anything and continued on with their conversation. Seeing that the shoes didn't have a price tag, I asked one of them how much it was. His answer was a very curt "$350. It's 30 per cent off, but that's the last pair." Before I could even utter a word, he turned his back on me and continued with the conversation he was having with his colleague. I was mortified and left immediately after that.
On my second visit, I wasn't really expecting a welcoming committee. And as expected, a deafening silence greeted me. This time, there was only one shop staff in the empty store and he just stood behind the counter, tinkering away on his laptop. From then on, I never set foot in the store again.
To end this essay of an entry, here's what I have to say: Be nice. There's no room for meanies.