Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Three Stages of Christmas Shopping

We're just now leaving the first stage of Christmas shopping, the most enjoyable time of the year when it comes to dealing with the general public (aka "muggles"). Here are the three stages:

Grateful. This first stage finds us dealing with happy customers, grateful for our existence. They've got plenty of time and have chosen to support a local store with their purchase. They've done some research, but want to verify their newfound knowledge by talking with helpful staff. We often chat for long periods about the various merits of board games or how to start a Warhammer 40K army. It's how I wish the store operated all the time.

Resentful. This is the stage in which customers are getting a bit desperate. They've missed the cheap or free shipping from online sources. They've either started shopping late, or have come down to the bottom of their list. The bottom is where they put us, and they would rather not talk to us at all, unless their frustration has lead them to a dead end. Often they want games that are long out of print, hot games that sold out in November, or crazy products that you can only find online or from custom websites. They didn't procrastinate as much as shopped for crazy uncle Joey, who pushes cardboard or paints lead, last. They generally want quick explanations, or perhaps quick picks from written lists. It's a bit stressful for staff.

Desperate. Resentfulness turns to desperation as customers will not only treat staff poorly, but will tell us the saga they've gone through over the past week or so to get their product from some other source, not us. During the resentful stage, I begin hearing sob stories about Amazon screwing people over, or being out of stock on one of our best selling items. During the desperate phase, it becomes our fault, as if there's a brick and mortar conspiracy to make them pay full price by sucking up all the online inventory. They're unhappy we're not in a proper shopping place, like a mall. The desperate customers shut down product explanations quickly and don't want a lot of chit chat. Often they'll take a recommendation without an explanation, the only time of year this happens. It's probably good we don't have a lot of interaction, because their true colors tend to rub staff the wrong way.

Now that's the reality of the situation. But how can you move people back up the through the stages? How do you make a desperate customer only a bit resentful, or a resentful one grateful? How do you get a grateful customer to rave to all their friends?