Indian Retail needs to breathe some Seattle air!

I have 3 favorite retailers in the world. Two of them are regular store fronts and one is an online retailer. There are two things in common with them— absolutely fantastic customer service and they are headquartered in Seattle, Washington. There must be something in the Seattle air since 2 can be a coincidence but 3 of them cannot. My 3 favorites are:

1) Nordstrom: An upscale fashion departmental store, they have 240 retail stores in 31 states and sales of $10.5bn by selling a wide range of fashion clothes, shoes, bags, accessories etc.

2) Costco: A warehouse for food and home supplies. They have 605 warehouses with sales of over $99.1B USD.

3) Amazon: Most popular online retailer with sales of over $61.1B USD—highly convenient online shopping experience for most things under the sun (with amazing range of products and customer service).

Seattle (Washington) is home to retail giants like Amazon, Nordstorm & Costco

Nordstrom’s policy is that they will provide a product and you can return it back if you are not satisfied at any time, without a receipt. Their customer service is just exceptional. Costco provides the best prices on the products they carry bar none, except that they are in bulk, but you can return it and no questions asked. Amazon prides itself on low prices and exceptional delivery time. They try to deliver before the promised delivery times in most cases. No wonder the pre-delivery has made an impact on customers who appreciate their hours of online shopping on Amazon owing to great customer support and delivery.
One of the reasons I bring this up is to compare the above to my experience of retail shopping in India. My experience covers mom and pop to large retail and the experience has been that once you walk out of the door (and I mean literally the door) there are generally no exchanges and god forbid returns. Once you pay for something and turn your back—you are expected to stay that way!

No Exchange- No Return policy is a norm in Indian retail stores

The buyer has to truly beware. If you buy a small ticket item or large one, the burden is on you if something is wrong with the product and the chances are you will move from pillar to post and end up in the same place. Interestingly the layers of approvals for saying no are mind boggling. Customer is never king or even a jack of spades!  Or maybe customer is the King but Kings never bargain!

Probably the only place where customer is King in  India is the many online shopping avenues that have come up over the last couple of years. Online Indian retailers like Flipkart, Jabong, Snapdeal today boost not only of an increased customer base, but a customer service that seems to have taken lessons from Seattle. They offer on-time delivery, Cash on Delivery (COD) option to the not-yet-trusting-of-online-payment Indian customer, and a return and refund policy. While they may not compare to Amazon as yet, there is an attitude change to be seen here that makes me hopeful of shopping

~ Sanjay Puri

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