The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
Recently, I was listening to music on Pandora, and during one of the mandatory commercial breaks, a survey popped up that asked me if I had purchased a DVD or Blu-Ray movie within the past year. My answer was no. But, even though I was well aware of my buying habits, having to answer that survey made me think about how much the world has changed.
Recently, I've been downloading some of favorite older titles from PSN instead of trodding down to the local Gamestop hoping that I might find something worth purchasing. These days, trying to find a used game that doesn't look like it was used as a frisbee is becoming increasingly difficult. To my surprise, I've even discovered that I don't really miss the shiny retail packaging all that much. Probably that only applies to certain games though. I honestly don't think I'll ever get tired of the fat instruction booklets, maps, and other items that usually come with retail boxed editions of RPG's and strategy based games.
The point is, I can see that the future of gaming will most definitely be a digital one. It's just a matter of when. However, that being said, there is still plenty of money being generated by the retail sector. And some of the most valuable business pratices have come from the decades old test lab that is a traditional brick and mortar store.
In fact, I would argue that there quite a few things that the video game industry could stand to learn from retail, but for the sake of time, I'll stick with one. Without further ado, here we go.
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT
I know that a lot of you are going to read that line above and immediately disagree. "Hell no, the customer isn't always right! Customers can be real jerks. You can't try to give them everything they want!" If that's your view, you may misunderstand the spirit behind the statement "the customer is always right".
The idea here is that any given merchant or business entity has to have a deep and abounding respect for their patrons. If you've ever tried to go into business for yourself, you know that one of the biggest hurdles to getting established is trying to figure out how to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You can have an incredible looking storefront, you can have unique and interesting products, you can have an excellent staff, good business connections, but absolutely none of that matters if the customer is not interested in you.
When an individual decides to give their money to any given business entity, that exchange is in fact an expression of admiration and confidence. The process for what makes people shop at what place over another, or buy one product over another may be ever so subtle. But often times, it's those seemingly minor factors that form lifelong brand loyalty.
The concept of "the customer is always right" is merely a literal and figurative acknowledgement of such customers. It is the idea that you are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that the people who provide you with a steady flow of revenue are happy and inclined to continue doing business with you. Some of the most successful businesses in the world base their core principles around this idea.
Circuit City had some of the most horendous customer service I've ever seen. Is it any wonder they are gone?
In recent years, I've seen a lot of cavalier attitudes towards gamers on the part of various companies in the video game industry whether it be makers of hardware, or software. At times, it would seem that the general assumption being made was, "Hey, we know that you're going to buy our product one way or another, so be glad with what you get, or what we see fit to give you."
Rather than viewing patrons with a spirit of appreciation, those loyally spending their hard-earned dough are essentially reduced to something like cattle. Herded in any given direction at whim, with no particular thought beyond the potential for profit represented by said cattle. In some ways, this is the kind of mentality that has been plaguing the free-to-play environment as well as makers of MMO's. Free-to-play can be an enjoyable and profitable business model, but with lazier and greedier developers, it represents an opportunity to maximize profit on a usually flimsy product.
The world of business is such a peculiar one at many times. There are many issues that occur that you would assume could easily be resolved through simple common sense, or at the very least, a healthy sense of ethical responsibilities. But time after time, you see things that are absolutely stupefying.
For example: Customer X buys a brand new game console and makes a digital purchase through the console makers online store/marketplace. Customer X's console malfunctions and is sent in for repairs. Customer X receives an entirely different "refurbished" model absent of the download they paid for. Upon complaining to the console maker, they are told that there is no record of their original purchase, and that they must repurchase that particular game if they wish to play it again. Customer X is also told that they are ineligible for a refund.
Sound farfetched? It's not. In fact, these kind headaches are common, and personally I think it's a total disgrace. It's not good business by any stretch of the imagination. What's worse, quite a few companies have gotten into the habit of assuming a threatening manner when a customer is bold enough to complain about something perfectly legitimate.
I really couldn't have said it better myself.
Imagine strolling into your local Best Buy to return a product, being told no, and when you continue to voice your displeasure, being told that they're going to call the cops on you, and have you arrested. Sound outrageous? That's because it is. Yet and still, many consumers have to put up with things like this all the time. Even when a big mistake has been made, it has become all too common to simply see a perfunctory apology issued with no concessions being offered.
That's not to say that all, or even most companies in the video game industry are this way. Many are different. Many go well out of their way to show that they value their customer base and these companies are usually both cherished and monetarily rewarded for it. It is because of this, that the point becomes even more clear, the customer is king.
As internet commerce begans to play a larger and more pervasive role in our lives, it goes without saying that we will inevitably say goodbye to the traditional retail environment we've come to know. But before it does, it would behoove those in business to be keenly aware of what worked, and what didn't in the current retail environment. Otherwise, could we really call it progress?