Preliminary note #1: this is not a customer service rant.
Preliminary note #2: I love these types of stores (I can't walk by one without going in).
Every Friday we receive flyers in the Montreal Gazette from the leading electronics retailers. I simply can't get enough of them. I love checking out every page, comparing prices, seeing what's new... you get the idea.
I scoped out a Dell laptop last week (RichardatDell would be proud). I did my online research, I even went to the retailer's website to check the "in-store availability." When I saw that multiple stores in my area had it available, I opted not to buy it online and headed over to retail. I feel bad for a lot of these major electronics store. In the day and age of the Internet, it's hard to have strong sales people. Most people come into the store informed, knowledgeable and ready to go. You can tell that most of these minimum wage employees are simply not up to speed.
I pointed to the laptop I wanted and said, "I'll take it." After waiting around for about five minutes, the sales associate came back and informed me that they had none left. I referred them to the "in-store availability" section of their website, to which he responded, "yeah, they probably count the demo model as a unit." I asked if any of their sister stores in the area had any left, to which he said that two were available at another store. I asked if he could call and hold it for me while I drive over there. No chance. I asked if I could go online to the website, order it and use the "in-store pick-up." He replied, "I'm not allowed to let people use the Internet."
I wasn't asking to surf the Web... I was asking if I could give the company he works for money.
I explained that none of this would have happened had the website been correct, to which he replied, "it's the website... that's not our problem... we're the store."
He wasn't being rude. He wasn't treating me poorly. He simply said what we all know (but don't want to admit): "the Website is not the same as the store, it's always different from the store, and even I don't know who to call when something like this happens."
No, he didn't say that line exactly, but I'm paraphrasing the overall sentiment of the dialogue.
Just recently, I had a similar experience with a telecommunications company. After a clerical error and a hour of frustration, the retail associate said, "this store and the corporate website are two separate companies."
Here's the point: even if they are separate companies. Even if there's always problems with pricing or mis-information. It is your brand. It is your company. And, it is your problem. It is all connected and one brand/company as far as the general public is concerned.
I don't have to list the ways these retail associates could have fixed the problem. What's of a more dire need is for them (and all of your employees) to realize that the website isn't even like another store... it's more important. It's bigger. It's the first place of contact and, more often than not, the source and driver that gets me to either buy or into your store. We all know the "it's not my problem" type of employees, but the bigger issue is that all Websites are intrinsic to the brand. It has to live and be consistent - from online to offline.
Maybe it doesn't flow quite like that, but it's the perfect moment for your employees to make it live. To humanize it. Because - at this point - most of us are getting more love out of the Websites than we are from your human capital.