A month ago I had two polarising shopping experiences at H&M and Uniqlo, I couldn’t wait to get out of H&M and I spent hours in Uniqlo walking out with an unplanned bag full of goods. I was blown away by the store experience especially the customer service of Uniqlo and wanted to delve further into what made this brand experience so enjoyable.
The Store Environment
Wide-open isles, bright lights, shelves neatly stacked and beautifully presented displays, what’s not to like about Uniqlo’s Melbourne store? I was certainly impressed and it was an extremely comfortable and relaxing shopping experience. Not only was there plenty of space to look at the garments there were lots of choices for colour and size. Everything was neatly stacked and plenty of room for multiple people to be selecting from the same rack. It’s a no brainer, create a welcoming store environment and this will keep customers there longer and the longer they stay the more likely they are to find something to purchase. I experienced this first hand, I was in there for two hours and walked about with a bag full of clothes instead of the one pair of jeans I went there for.
If you’ve been into the Melbourne H&M store you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say it’s a chaotic shopping experience and as assault to the senses! Well it is for me anyway. There are clothes all over the place and racks are jam packed into the store. To get a good look at the clothes you have to push past other eager shoppers and dig amongst the racks to really see what they have on show. Clothes are randomly put on racks and there seems to be no order. When you finally find something that you like you’re more than likely to discover that they don’t have it in your size or preferred colour.
I finally decided on a few garments which I chose mainly for their price, I proceeded to make my way to the change room only to find a massive queue. I decided that the $15 shorts weren’t worth the wait especially as the queue for the cash register was just as long. I felt relieved when I finally exited the store and told myself that I wouldn’t be back there in a hurry.
The Customer Service
I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced such outstanding customer service at any other high street retailer. The sales assistants were extremely helpful and have clearly been trained to offer an impeccable and consistent customer service experience. I was approached with 1 min of searching for my size in a pile of jeans. As I started to gather a handful of garments I was asked repeatedly if I would like a carry bag. I was dreading the change room experience and was delighted to find no queue. The change room experience was fantastic, there was someone there to help me with size and colour options. The assistants were in constant communication with other change rooms about the number of free cubicles they had. Impressive!
I had to wait two minutes to pay for my items and I was greeted with a big smile and was told by the assistant that they were sorry I had to wait.
Uniqlo have clearly invested in this part of their brand offering and it shows. After doing some research it seems that Uniqlo is renowned for its passion for customer service, which is known as the ‘Uniqlo Way’. As Fairfax reports, employees in Uniqlo stores around the world gather together each morning to recite a series of customer service mantras, called ‘The Behaviours’. From introducing themselves and asking how customers are, to thanking them for waiting, ‘The Behaviours’ form the basis of each sales assistant’s daily vocabulary.
Employees are an extension of your brand, they are conveying messages about who you are and what you stand for. This is a clear differentiator for Uniqlo and contributes positively to the brand experience.
The staff at H&M were barely anywhere to be seen, not once was I approached and offered assistance. When I finally hunted down a shop assistant to help me find the correct size they vaguely pointed me in the direction of the rack and said that if the size wasn’t there, they didn’t have it.
Uniqlo embrace the tag line “Made for all” with a product offering that can be adopted by a range of people at affordable prices. The brand aims to design low-cost garments with high-fashion sensibility, providing clothes that can complement both a faded pair of jeans and a $2,500 Italian sport coat. What attracted me to the range was the versatility and colour choices. Naoki Takizawa, design director at Uniqlo, seeks to produce clothing that anyone might want to wear, not a certain age group or personality. “Find a common denominator globally,” Takizawa said “That’s my job.”
At first I was sceptical about the quality of the clothes but I am pleased to report that all of my purchases are wearing really well and I intend to go back and stock up on some more basics!! Most of the clothes seemed to fit how I thought they would and the quality feels great.
I lived in London for a few years and being a backpacker I was an avid H&M shopper. I can say that over time my H&M clothes went out of shape and began to look tacky with the exception of a few items.
When I’m in H&M I often find myself pondering, “I wonder how long that will last?”. I’ve been to H&M on another occasion with an armful of cloths to try on and all I walked out with was a scarf. I found that the clothes didn’t fit properly and the quality was poor.
In fairness it’s hard to compare the product of both retailers because they are offering the market two very different things. However, what I think really differentiates Uniqlo over H&M and other retailers is the customer service experience. It enhances the whole brand experience. It takes a lot of time and resources to ensure that customer service is spot on but attention to detail in this area is a key brand touchpoint especially as product offerings start to merge and differentiation becomes even harder.
Maintaining impressive growth requires incredible discipline and steady control over the entire brand experience. While their clothes may be simpler than H&M’s, there is nothing “basic” about the Uniqlo brand, especially when it comes to customer service.
Do you know any brands who’s customer service standards enhance their brand experience?
Director of Brand Projects