It was a sunny, summer's morning.
I was back in my hometown, staying with my parents for a few days over the Christmas break. My mother had said she needed to go to the local shopping mall to buy some groceries, and I innocently offered to accompany her on this trip... not knowing what a grave mistake this would be.
As we entered the mall, we walked past a huge section of women's fashion shops, all with carefully crafted displays and signs to advertise their summer promotionals. Smugly, I resisted all the stores and their offers with ease. I consider myself a frugal shopper, and try to shop second hand as much as possible. I was also saving to go on a long holiday at the time, so my cash flow was extremely limited.
All, but one shop.
When I saw the golden, wooden door frame of one particular store, I went weak in the knees. The entrance to the store looked like a portal to some sort of tropical island in a far away land. I knew it was over; I couldn't resist having a browse in my favorite fashion store... a store that unfortunately rarely offers promotions or sales.
Like an addict who was trying to convince themselves that they don’t have a problem, I asked my mother if she would mind me taking a quick look - fully knowing she is a shopaholic herself, and would encourage any hint of me wanting to make a purchase.
‘I just like browsing, I won’t actually buy anything’ I internally reassured myself. But then, I heard her voice.
“Can I help you with anything today?”.
“Nope. I’m fine” I snapped at her, a little too quickly.
I knew what these girls were like; friendly, helpful, basically an embodiment of the brand I loved so dearly. I couldn’t risk engaging in conversation, as I knew she would have me hooked, and I would want to spend more time in the store.
I looked for my mother to drag her out of there - if the sales assistant spoke with her then we would never leave. My mother - bless her - can talk for hours, and I would end up just buying something out of sheer boredom. But it was too late, she was already deep in conversation with another one of those sunny, bubbly sales assistant who looked just liked the other one… they were even wearing the same outfit!
“OH. MY. GOD! We are wearing the same thing!” the girls cried to each other.
No, this was not planned nor was it an appointed uniform. This was some sort of miracle blessed upon them by the sun-kissed goddess of bikinis and beachwear, Tigerlily herself. The girls were ecstatic, as was my mother.
“Oh, you girls are so cute! And look, you’re both wearing a similar top to my daughter! Now imagine if she had the same skirt on as you did!”
No mother, please stop.
“Ohhh! YES!” they shrieked.
“You MUST try this skirt on. It just arrived this week and everyone is going crazy for it. It would look amazing on you!” one of the girls insisted.
And that’s when I knew I was done for.
If were to make a list of all the things I needed, or wanted, at this present time of my life, a red, floral, ra-ra mini-skirt, with hundreds of impractical stray cords and an extremely high price tag would certainly not make the list. Would this skirt be practical for a five week backpacking trip? Most certainly not.
But, I was with my mother.
My mother, who still loved to dress her little girl up, even though I was 26 at the time. I knew I couldn’t deny her this pleasure, and even if I wanted to… she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So, I obliged. I put on the damn ra-ra skirt, posed for a photo with the girls as they wanted to put it on their company Instagram. The damn ra-ra skirt was so stupid and impractical, with all the random cords flying everywhere. So obviously I caved, and bought the damn overpriced ra-ra skirt and left the store with my tail (or maybe those cords?) hanging between my legs.
To be fair, the skirt turned out to be one of my favorite items that I’ve ever purchased. It has danced and bounced around with me to many places, and always receives a lot of compliments from strangers. The skirt has been with me through many happy moments of my life, and is still very much loved to this day.
When I think back to the factors that led me to purchase the skirt, it wasn’t just my lack of willpower. The brand was already one I loved and trusted to provide me with a high quality product, which is what led me there in the first place. But it was the customer experience that caused me to stay, and then eventually sway.
The girls in that store created an environment that made both me and my mother simply feel good. They were willing to take time out of their morning routine to do something a bit silly - that most likely wouldn’t have resulted in a sale - and they were attentive to my mother, even though she clearly doesn’t fit their buyer persona (no offense, mum).
Those sales assistants really did have lovely smiles...
They also knew the values of the brand, and strived to embody those values in their own work. The service they offered me felt like an extension to the brand, which completely put me at ease. It almost felt like I was hanging out with a couple of friends playing dress-up, and by adding my mother into the equation, it felt completely nostalgic. Of course, I’m sure the girls didn’t know the feeling they were creating for me at the time, but I’m sure that they knew delivering exceptional customer experiences evokes emotion, completely unique to the individual.
So yes, that product wasn’t necessarily something I needed. And in usual circumstances, I would opt for saving the money over a high-priced clothing purchase… but the experience is still something my mother and I can look back on and laugh at to this day.
All thanks to those sunny, bubbly sales assistants.
Written by Louise Blair
All the way from "down under" Louise has joined Speakap to help businesses to build better relationships with their workforce. When she's not busy producing the Frontline podcast, you might catch her running... while listening to a podcast.