I read through an article on CNET yesterday that got me fired up about something I’ve had on my mind for the last three years – the unfortunate, yet inevitable, demise of Circuit City.
About three summers ago, I worked there part time as a TV/Home Theater salesperson and strange as it might sound, I absolutely loved it. Obviously I enjoyed being around the latest and greatest consumer electronics products, but I also got a lot of satisfaction from sharing what I knew with my customers and helping them pick out something that really rocked.
But alas, as both you and I can well attest, this level of customer service is not typical fare inside most big-box retailers these days. And the teenagers masquerading as technology experts leave a lot to be desired.
In years past, the stores incentivized their employees to deliver exceptional customer service by offering sizable commissions on sales, which often led to quite comfortable salaries and great employee discounts.
In this era of shrinking profit margins, however, commissions have become a thing of the past (as all Best Buy employees seem conditioned to report), and we are left to our own devices…or to the recommendations of Timmy, the high school junior.
What these retailers seemingly fail to understand, though, is that the one remaining competitive advantage they may yet have – the one key factor of differentiation between themselves and the countless online stores offering the exact same products for less money – IS CUSTOMER SERVICE.
And as a result of their negligence, most people (myself included) are more inclined to visit a big-box store, play around with a product for a while, and then purchase it on Amazon at a significant discount.
My direct challenge to Circuit City, then, is to bring back the days of commissioned sales (at least for specific departments with higher margins like TV/Home Theater) and see if things don’t get a little better.
Because at $4.14 a share, they could hardly get worse.