The lost art of a smile...

The success of a lingerie boutique hinges on one of the most ancient and simplest art forms: Customer Service. It isn't a difficult thing to do. It requires a smile, a little bit of effort and lingerie knowledge. A store may have some amazing stock, but with no one to assist and encourage a purchase, who is going to buy the garments? Lingerie (especially fun stuff) usually doesn't sell itself. It takes prompting. Most women don't buy these frivolous garments just because. They are purchasing for a reason...

I went into a store in Sydney (it shall remain nameless) that I have been to previously. The service I endured during my last visit was far from satisfactory, but I really liked some of the labels they stocked, so I wanted to give them another chance and not judge an entire store on the efforts of one staff member. Who knows, she could've been having a really bad day. Maybe her cat had just passed away, or perhaps she found out her boyfriend cheated on her. Who knows the reason behind poor customer service from someone whose profession is to perform in this field.

I walked into the store excited to see what they had for me this time. I hear the assistant say to her friend on the phone "I've got to go. A customer just walked in." I thought 'great' - that was polite of her. This time I would get some service! I looked up from my phone having removed my headphones to offer her a smile, and an easy opportunity to say hello and ask what had brought me to her store today. Alas she was looking at her computer screen already. Following my entrance to the store and her getting off the phone, her focus had already shifted from her friend straight to something else without even a greeting. Ok, maybe she was doing paperwork or something. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and started browsing.

I was touching stock, looking for size tags and prices. Still not a peep. I went to the next rack, right against the counter. She didn't even look up when I looked her way. It was disappointing to say the least. I was the customer, yet I felt like I had to do all the work. I understand that some clients may be reluctant to talk in a cheeky lingerie store and prefer browsing in silence - I get that. There are few things more disconcerting than being followed around a store by an assistant watching your every move as if expecting a thief. That scenario will encourage me to leave a store regardless of the quality of the product. A simple greeting and an enquiry as to why I'm in their establishment is all I ask for. If I want to browse I will say, but I would like to be asked. It shouldn't be my job to approach her.

After about five minutes of wandering around this very small store, I got frustrated and thought this is getting ridiculous. I had to break the ice. "Whats up the stairs?" She finally looked up and smiled. Unfortunately, by that time I was over it and it was more of a test to see what she would verbally offer me. She had the chance to redeem herself with a touch of service. Alas, all I got was "Upstairs is toys and books...". "Um is there any more lingerie up there?". "No"...

What?? Ok, back to the racks I went. Straight to the original Maison Close three-piece I was eyeing off, with chain detail. I took piece by piece off the rack, examining them all. Held it up to my body in the mirror, and... nothing. Ok this store was done. Not a chance I was going to buy there. For the fun of it anyway, I asked if there were any more sizes available, mentioning that all I could see was size medium and large on the rack. She said she'd check out the back and disappeared, without even bothering to go to the rack first. She came back and exclaimed that they were sold out, but could find out if she could get it and call me later? I said I'm from Melbourne so it's now or never, telling her I really liked Maison Close and I couldn't get it back home so I loved seeing it her store... Still no offer of "Maybe you should try on the Medium and see" or "how about this one also by Maison Close. It uses a really beautiful Chantilly lace and has suspenders." I thought she was still paying attention to me and had gone back to the computer to look up if she could find the stock for me. But no. She was back online reading something absorbing. That's when I walked out. "Thank you!" not...

I'd had enough. I am without a doubt one of the easiest people in the world to sell lingerie to. A little encouragement and I'm sold! If I find what I want, I DO purchase odd sizes and alter things if I really love them, but I wasn't going to purchase from a store that wouldn't even have a basic conversation with a client when not busy. And it's not like this was the first time they had done this to me. I gave them two chances and they failed I'm sorry to say. This store has some lovely stock but very poor customer service. I will find these pieces online - and when I say online, I don't mean from their online store.

I didn't want to have to sell myself to them as a legitimate client, but that is how it felt. I probably would have got the service I required if I proved to her that I REALLY wanted to buy, but I wasn't dressed up, I looked young, I had just walked all the way there to visit their store, and in the end they lost me as a client, forever.

So retailers be warned: I am on the look out. I don't like to verbally put down lingerie stores on the blog and name the damned, because they are a dying breed. But you need to pull up your socks and make an effort with your customers. If you work it well, every one who enters could potentially create a sale. Even if they just refer the store to someone else. Boutique stores need word of mouth to keep them alive. If you can keep the clients talking positively, you will be making money in no time. 

Have you had a bad lingerie customer service experience? Or a good one for that matter!


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  2. OMG yes! I had the worst experience in Myer recently. I was looking for lingerie for my anniversary and I couldnt get help anywhere. I approached numerous people and they kept reffering me to a different area. I ended up leaving and going to Sexyland of all places. At least they didnt hand me on to someone else to help. Yes the lingerie was trashy and not exactly what I wanted but at least I had someone help me.

    1. Oh no that is so disappointing to hear! You shouldve emailed me for advice! I have to admit that I hate Myer for their lack of service but love it for their variety. But I can only shop it up there because I can help myself to the racks easily and know what will work and what wont. They really do need to pull up their standard.... Hope youre anniversary gift went down well!

  3. I would have to say, after finding out my true size after more than 10 years of being in the wrong bra - every single sales assistant who has ever helped me 'fit a bra'. Liars. I've been wearing a cup size too small and the worst, a band size 3 sizes too big. I always wondered why they back of my bras would ride up and I'd feel so uncomfortable all day. It's because the stores they work at simply don't have my size, so they just sold me crap's a sale right? In the past couple of weeks researching things about lingerie and bras, my eyes are opened to the convoluted industry of bras and the sizing behind it.

    So I'm appalled and angry (sooo angry) at every so-called bra-fitter that hasn't pulled me aside and said 'hey, did you actually know: bra sizes are relative and an 8D cup isn't the same as a 14D cup'. And I'm angry at brands like Elle McPherson, or Dita Von Teese's Von Follies not stocking proper sizes. No wonder 80% or so women wear the wrong size, because you don't feel good about yourself NOT fitting into the stuff DJs or Myer stock. The money I've wasted needlessly because department stores have been greedy.

    Sorry about rant!

    1. I completely understand! Before I knew better I was always fitted into a 10B however I was an 8D, it just didnt exist in Australia back then... This is why I feel most women don't like 'lingerie'. It has become so awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing to go and get a fitting. You never know what to believe and it has become like fashion "Do I look good in this?" "Of course you do, it's perfect!"... I think stores, especially department stores, need the staff training to be diplomatic but honest in their fittings. I know as a professional fitter its often difficult to tell the truth to clients who don't want to know they have changed sizes. But I always state the truth... even if they dont want to hear it.

      Keep following and you will hear about group fitting workshops and shopping trips. I normally do private consultations but will be organizing group lingerie shopping trips very soon. Thanks so much for the comment! I love a good rant! ;)


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