My friend and I were waiting our turn in the queue at the cash counter of Full Circle – a well known book store in Khan Market, Delhi – when our discussion about our reading interests was interrupted by a loud, thickly-accented female voice.
“What do you mean??!!! I am a regular customer of this store! You cannot make an exception for your regular customer? Surely you don’t expect me to carry the card with me every time!”
The voice in question belonged to a middle-aged, well-dressed lady (one of the many that are found in abundance in Khan Market). She was upset at the lady behind the counter for being unable to give her a member’s discount because of the non-availability of a membership card. The membership card is a “Friends of Full Circle Bookstore” card, which you can obtain ‘on-request’ from the cash counter at the store on purchase of a book. Why I highlight ‘on-request’ is because until this incident took place, I too was unaware that such a thing existed despite the fact that I am a frequent visitor of the store. So obviously it is not too well marketed by the store. The card allows you to collect 10 points on every Rs. 100 spent by you, for 10 visits. On your 11th visit, you get to redeem your points by getting a discount equivalent to the total number of points collected.
The conversation that followed, was interesting enough to hold our fancy for the next 5 minutes –
Lady – “I have many purses. My card could be in any one of the bags. You cannot expect me to carry the card with me everytime! I am a regular customer and I have been to each one of your stores. You can check your records. I live here in Golf Links!”
(Obviously the Golf Links bit was added for tashan value ;). After all, we are rich and speak in an accent. It is our birth right to show off!!! )
The executive behind the counter, by now suitably embarrassed, quietly relented, and started drawing out a fresh card for the lady. Through with the billing procedure, she handed the bill along with the card to the lady.
Lady – “What is this? You have made a fresh card for me? Have you given me a discount?”
Executive – “Yes Ma’am.”
Lady (incredulous by now) – “You mean you have given me a discount and added my points for THIS purchase????!!!”
Executive – “Yes Ma’am.”
Lady – “But I bought 3 books. Should you not add my points for the 3 books as 3 different visits???”
(My friend and I gave each other conspiratorial grins. Oh come-on lady!!! You are Rich!! You live in golf links! And the babe just gave you a discount. Don’t argue and behave like a baniya!!! Just take your books and your discount and Run!!!!)
And Run she must!!!! For if you ask me, it is neither lady’s fault, nor that of the female behind the counter. The fault completely lays with the store owners. You call me a Friend of the Bookstore, but how about being friendly with me? If I am not mistaken, there are at least 2 stores of Full Circle in Delhi. If I am a member with them, should they not have my details including my membership number and the total points collected by me, stored in their systems and easily accessible at both the stores?
Crosswords Bookstores, another chain of bookstores with a presence all over India, also offer membership cards. But they store my information electronically for it to be available as and when I need to access it. I mean this is what usability is all about! We are Humans! You cannot expect us to remember to carry these things with us everywhere. That’s where technology needs to come to our rescue. And believe you me, even though Crosswords charges Rs 150 for their membership card, unlike Full Circle’s which is for free, I would much rather pay Rs 150 and take membership with Crosswords. They advertise their membership card (even on their website), hold special events and schemes for members, provide special privileges to the members and also give them a discount on EVERY purchase.
And Crossword’s user focus goes beyond the Membership card. Being an avid reader, I have purchased books from Crosswords, Teksons Bookstores and Full Circle. I have the hardest time locating the books of my choice at Teksons and Full Circle. They have such a hap-hazard categorisation of books! I always have to take the help of the executives at the store. Crosswords Bookstores, on the other hand, have a beautiful categorisation of books. I have purchased books from them in their larger stores in Ahmedabad and their much smaller one in Delhi (Shopper’s Stop, Rajouri garden). And the usability of their layout doesn’t fail to please in either case. They have books categorised according to the high-level genres, author names and even have sections called best sellers, Crosswords recommends, Crosswords top 10 etc. Buying books at Crosswords is always a pleasure! Now that’s taking customer experience to a different level. Usability beyond service with a smile.
(P.S – I hope they open more Crosswords stores in Delhi. One small outlet is just not enough!)