Dear Brides to be and all of my other friends,
Be prepared. This is a bit of a rant on my part, but it's a well intentioned one. Today I'm writing to talk about the state of the bridal registry in this country. First, a bit of background. When I closed Schreibman Jewelers in 2013, we were still doing our registries the old fashioned way, pen to paper with as much one on one contact as the bride and groom needed to decide upon their patterns. Sometimes the young couple would come back three times and we welcomed that because it gave us a chance to introduce them to new merchandise and just generally get to know them a little bit better. We would enter their registries into our database afterwards so that we always had a copy that we could give to them. We handled orders by phone and shipped them out of our warehouse. There were times, especially during the heavier wedding months that we were sending out over 150 gifts a day. It never seemed like a problem.
Fast forward to last year when I decided to jump back into a retail setting during the holidays to see if perhaps I'd ever enjoy working on that side of register again. I went to work for a very well- known chain store who saw my resume as an opportunity to completely improve their bridal registry process. In all fairness, it was Christmas and this was a very busy location, but time after time I saw young couples having to wait . This confuses me for several reasons.
1. There should always be at least two registry experts working on the floor of a store that sells itself as a store with a bridal registry at any time.
2. I truly don't think that any young couple that has the ability to bring in thousands of dollars over a 6 month period should ever have to wait, without a cup of coffee for over 5 minutes. I was told when I brought the plight of one young couple to the managers attention that it was just too bad because "We were busy and they would just need to wait for as long as it took. "
3.The other problem as I see it? When a couple was finally taken care of instead of being treated to exceptional service, they went through the intake process and then handed a scanner , shown how to use it and then told to go around the store and choose their items and bring the scanner back when they were finished.
I watched this for awhile and listened while the management continued to complain about the lack of items on each registry.
Finally, one day I couldn't take it anymore. I broke the rules and walked up to a young couple standing by the high end mixer section. "Can I help you? " I asked. The bewildered looks on their faces told me everything that I needed to know. I spent the next hour frustrating my managers by leaving my "zone" but registering the young couple for everything they'd need. We chose stainless, tablecloths, service plates, colored glassware and more. We talked about who they were, what they loved and how they saw themselves using the beautiful things that they would receive.
I asked them what china they'd chosen and the bridal actually said to me, "Well we did choose good dishes but you probably wouldn't know them?" I grinned and said, "Try me!" She'd chosen Bernardaud Constance and was thrilled when I could help her choose wonderful accents to go with those dishes even though they weren't in that particular store. When we were finished we took the scanner up to the manager on duty and the bride hugged me and said, "I just want to thank you..we were just so confused and you helped us choose way more than we'd thought we would. Our friends will love this registry." I went to help the next customer and the manager later pulled me aside wanting to know how I'd gotten them to register for so much. I proceeded to tell her and she then informed me that it was lovely that time but truthfully I was only supposed to spend 15 minutes with the couple.
I was amazed and dismayed. It was such a robotic explanation and it came from upper level management sitting in offices in some other city. This is a store that should know better because the merchandise that they sell is high end. I turned in my letter of resignation two days later and when they asked me why I told them that I couldn't possibly work that way, that what they were selling wasn't a real bridal registry. I know that they could do better, but they won't in the name of easy profit. It's definitely much more profitable for them to let the customer do the work, but the customer is being cheated out of an experience and they know it.
They are not the only store doing this, in my research ( Jim and I renewed our wedding vows several years ago so I experimented with registries all over the country!) I have discovered that it's become the industry standard with the exception of small specialty stores and stores like Bergdorfs that intelligently use all of the technology at their disposal but in the background, still providing the customer service that once made our industry great.
My point? If we lament the loss of the specialty store and the service that we were once able to provide it's because we let it happen . If you are wondering why there is no one left to sell gorgeous products it's because the market has been destroyed our reliance on the technology that we embraced too quickly. We've outsourced great customer service to a scanner and we haven't provided our salespeople with the time or the training that would allow them to provide the emotionally rich experience that many customers want again. They miss it, they tell me so and in turn all of us are missing good sales.
We can do better!
We're missing out on the opportunity to create beautiful products lines, because the sales just aren't there. I hear constantly that "it's just not the same" and this is true, but it's not just the scanners fault. It's not just the economy that hampers our business , although it is indeed a factor.
There is a scarcity of great customer service and experience that is self imposed because it's just become all about the bottom line. We've stopped training our salespeople to emotionally relate to our customers and in turn they've stopped relating to us. Many of many clients tell me that their sales reflect that but that they don't know why or what to do about it. I tell them to remember that first and foremost it starts with them!
Freelance Writer, Herbalist, Aromatherapist, Lover of all things Fragrant and Beautiful, Lifestyle, Bridal Registry ~ Gifts and Tableware Consultant, Personal Shopper and Food Concierge!