The recession….Friday’s gripe….or is it just hot air?

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It’s a frustrating time for any of us in business, retail being so unpredictable it’s untrue – and for the record, anyone telling you otherwise is doubtless a) lying or b) works for one of the major chains…and is about to go into liquidation.

I know of nobody glibly sitting back and counting fists full of dollars.

So you would think that this is the time to really ensure that your customer focus is all whatever your commercial discipline.

I know I am acutely aware of my customer enquiries and ensuring every last whim is dealt with positively and swiftly….so I am aghast at the behaviour of others. This is not to assert the moral high ground – it’s literally just my belief being beggared that they are still in business at all.

We can’t sit back and comfort ourselves that business is bad because we’re in a global recession when what we can do, we still fail to deliver.

My mind reels at the reasons why.

Are we in a recession or can we just no longer be bothered? Have we been wrapped in jobsworthinessed cotton wool for so long that when we have to fight we’ve simply not got the interest, inclination or gumption? Or have we spread ourselves too thinly? Are we all trying to be Jack of all trades but remain the absolute masters of none?

I don’t know but it feels like we only ever achieve half the job any more. Surely if we want to remain in employment we have to show our employability now more than ever…it really is sh*t or bust time!

This week my husband wanted me to get him a non slip rubber mat to protect our new carpet from his office chair – oh yes, we’re that rock ‘n’ roll guys!

The shop’s website stated that it opens daily at 8am. Yesterday I rocked up at 08:15 to be greeted by a sign saying that they opened at 09:00. I pitched up again this morning and the door finally opened after 09:00. One team leader appeared to be running the entire outfit – a boom time for shoplifters. A lovely woman, in her position, I’d have had a nervous breakdown by now, having to serve everyone who’d been waiting since 08:00 (quite a considerable queue) and watch the shop, process sales, answer the phone and answer all shop floor enquiries.

“I know,” she explained, “one of my team phoned in sick.” Within nanoseconds a second member of staff turned up clearly late for work at 09:10, muttered half heartedly that he was sorry for being late….I jokingly added “Late? Some of us have been here since 08:45” .

The team leader muttered back in kind, “lazy arse”.

It reminded me of a company for whom I used to work. The senior management employed a healthy work initiative, providing staff with fresh fruit to deter them from snacking on energy sapping carbs. Their kitchen was like the hanging gardens of Babylon. Not just apples, oranges and bananas were provided, but peaches, nectarines, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants and kiwis…..anything which was in season. The result, however, was perhaps not one they had bourne in mind. The reality appeared that many folk arrived at work for the 09:00 start of the day not having eaten but would then have breakfast so not start work proper till at least 09:30 in many cases.

Preston is currently enjoying its Guild year. Before it ever kicked off there was a call for people to complete an online registration form stating what skills you have with a view to work opportunities. I completed it back in September wearing my event manager’s hat and touting my marketing support services.

I have heard nothing since, no acknowledgement, nothing.

I have emailed to ask when I would be likely to hear something and have had no response. I have emailed again and had no response.

I corresponded with their twitter scribe who said they would look into it – twice….and have never come back with anything, not even the empty response which could have convincingly been – I’m sorry but we’ve lost your application, we were overwhelmed.

I responded to an online advert at Myerscough College telling us about their country fair, how much there is for the family from activities to stalls. I emailed and asked what the provision for hiring a stall might be, what last year’s footfall was, using the enquiries email address on the advert.

Nobody has answered.

I was told that a local HUGE employer invites people into its canteen to have a stall….a superb opportunity I felt. I emailed the relevant person asking what the arrangement is….cost…size of space…what is/isn’t provided.

I have had no reply.

I wrote to UCLAN’s SU using their website’s marketing contact email (which has since been changed!) and heard nothing. I called them and stated that nobody had replied and I wondered if there might be somebody with whom I could talk.

“Which email address did you use?”

“The one on your website noted as marketing enquiries”

“Oh that one isn’t used any more.”

As an online only retailer I try to attend a number of events every year to get the word out, to showcase products and to gauge customer feedback. When I had a physical shop I could hear feedback. You would listen to customers say,

“Oh I love these”

“Bloody hell, how much?”

“I’ve always wanted one of these”

“When will you be getting these back in?”

and more importantly……”Do you ever stock x, y, z product?”

There is no substitution for audible feedback and the face to face chat hence why I am keen to get out and hear people’s thoughts on the ranges I stock.

So it’s annoying, frustrating, disheartening and down right RUDE to come against this wall of silence time and time again.

Given redundancies, joblessness and a fear of the future you would think folk might ramp it up a gear but no, it seems the complacent “Who gives a ****?” attitude will out.

I’m beginning to wonder if folk just sit there as the old addage goes THUMB UP BUM AND BRAIN IN NEUTRAL.

Thumb up bum, brain in neutral ©kathwalkerillustration

If I can offer some advice:

Please do not publish an email address which nobody monitors.

Please don’t say you will do things and then not do them.

Please do not put a call to action on your website and then ignore any interraction.

Please let the virtual details of your physical world be  a fair reflection of the real situation (and this applies to online daters too!)

Whine over – cartharsis ensues.

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