We wedding gown retailers have something to offer that sets us apart from the big businesses that can’t deliver personal and personalised customer service. But that doesn’t make our lives any easier, says Laura Daly
Navigating the heightened and often treacherous waters of customer demands can be exhausting work, there’s no secret there. It’s got me thinking about just how much things have changed over the past few years. Expectations continue to rise and the stress under which the bride finds herself increases commensurately.
The way I see it, excellent customer service is only excellent if the customer perceives it to be so. When the customer is hell-bent on giving themselves a bad time, or has complained about everything from day one, it can be so difficult to change their point of view. Either you stand your ground and fight them, or you give in and play their game.
These days, whatever happens, you may need to put your ego to one side in order to retain your sanity and ensure your customer’s ultimate satisfaction.
Seventeen years ago, customers were, for the main part – and by today’s standards – low-maintenance. If we had to inform them that something wasn’t possible, they took it on the chin and moved on. The next few years brought in girls who just couldn’t hear the word ‘No’ and, if you dared to say that something wasn’t possible, all hell broke loose. Feet would stamp and tears would follow.
I’d occasionally succumb to self- medicating after a frustrating day at the shop when it seemed that the only solution was Pinot Grigio, straight from the bottle!
From the foot-stamper, we moved onto the bride who said, with a smile, “I know you said it’s not possible but that doesn’t apply to me”. Then there was a pause… And you were expected to agree to bend your policies and guidelines, just for her. The mother of the bride was usually there too, with her fingers crossed behind her back willing you to agree to everything, because, if not, she was in for an ear-bashing in the car on the way home.
The newest customer trend seems to be those who simply don’t hear a word you say, and don’t acknowledge your expertise or experience at all.
You can email them, give them written contracts, explain things face-to-face; but it’s all just wasted time and breath. It’s their way, all the way, and there’s little you can do other than just go with it. Not even a vintage merlot is going to numb the pain of this one, I fear.
Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love our brides. I totally understand the pressure these girls are under to be perfect in every way for their weddings. Doomed from the minute they pick up a magazine or type ‘Weddings’ into Pinterest, they are bombarded with images of bridal perfection. Their anxiety can all to easily colour their dealings with the one wedding business that will truly want the best for them – the retailer of their gown – and this is where we can still make our mark.
“Good customer service comes from giving the customer what she wants, before she even knows what she wants, herself”
As small business owners, we’re in the perfect position to understand our customers, to help manage their expectations and to ultimately tame even the bridezillarest of bridezillas.
I’ve always firmly believed that good customer service comes primarily from giving the customer what she wants, before she even knows herself.
If ever there was a time to reappraise our approach to customers, it’s now. If we get it right, we’re one step further to future-proofing our businesses for the post-Brexit retail roads that lie ahead. Big impersonal superstores and outlets cannot do this – but we can.
Reading all those little signs that tell us, (before the bride even realises it) that she likes or dislikes something, that she is happy or unhappy with you– or with herself, or with her mother, or with the entire world – is what sets us apart. It’s what will keep us sane.
Laura Daly is our monthly columnist, providing vital, honest, inside knowledge on what life is really like at a British bridal boutique. Laura is also the owner of Bellissima Weddings in South Woodham Ferrers in Essex.