Hardware Retailing

SEP 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | September 2017 94 Customer Service: A Worldwide Retail Trend D uring my travels, I stayed in a variety of settings and experienced life in countries where culture and daily routines differed from what I was used to in the Midwestern United States. Here are some things all independent retailers can learn from the retail environment overseas. Experiencing Customer Service in Portugal and Morocco Language and cultural differences are the two most important things to adapt to when traveling to a different country. Prior to embarking on Remote Year, I had a grand plan to do a self-guided tour and iPhone photoshoot of home improvement stores in each country I visit. Turns out, that's not as easy as it sounds. The way things work in other countries is just, well, different. However, there was one aspect of the independent retailing channel that I've learned spans across borders—superior customer service. Lisbon, Portugal After an hour of Google searching for independent hardware stores in Lisbon, Portugal, I put on my walking shoes to visit two stores within a 30-minute walk of my apartment. When I arrived at store No. 1, I was quickly disappointed when I realized that it wasn't open, despite the hours listed online. Lesson one: You can't always trust the internet when it comes to information on small Portuguese businesses. So, I walked another 20 minutes to check out another hardware store. In Portugal, many people spoke English, so I confidently walked into the small store and asked the elderly gentleman at the counter if he was the owner. With a questioning look on his face, he began to speak in Portuguese and motioned for his wife, who also worked in the store, to come over. I realized quickly that they didn't speak any English. So, I did my best to use makeshift sign language to ask if I could look around and take a few photos. This "conversation" ended in the store owner going back and forth to the back room attempting to find the product or products he thought I was asking for. After he tried several times to bring me a product, and I tried repeatedly to explain that I simply wanted to take a few pictures, the visit ended with the owners drawing me a map to the nearest camera store. As I exited the store, I felt discouraged by my lack of success in getting photos to share with retailers back home. But, even more so, I also felt overwhelmingly touched. It would have been easy for these store owners to shoo me away from their store. Instead, they took nearly 30 minutes out of their busy day and diligently tried to help me find what I was looking for, despite the language barrier. They refused to let me leave their store without providing me an answer to the question they thought I was asking. I take pride in my work for NRHA because I believe so greatly in the power of the independent industry and what a strong role independent business owners play in the lives of their customers and communities. It was amazing to see the personalities of the local businesses I know and love back home, echoed across the world. Rabat, Morocco In Rabat, Morocco, most of the locals did their shopping at the "Medina of Rabat," which we referred to as "the Medina" for short. To read the continuation of this post, visit TheRedT.com/portugal-morocco. Rabat, Morocco

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