Shoe Shopping

by Diane on 13/04/2010

One thing I didn’t consider when I started working in the field of user experience was the impact it would have on my private life. The more I learn, the more I notice when others do it wrong and I get annoyed when I’m affected. It started off with me moaning about unusable websites I had to deal with, and since I had a first look into Service Design, I have the feeling there’s room for improvement in almost everything I experience throughout the day. Doctor’s visit, physiotherapy, gyms to chose from – you name it and I have many ideas how to make it a better experience for the customer/client/member. But on the weekend I had a perfect experience while…. shoe shopping.

Unlike most women I’m not a big clothes or shoe shopper. I could even go as far as to say that I absolutely dislike it. My body has some common weaknesses, that the clothes industry doesn’t seem to be willing to cater for. One aspect of this is having calves that don’t seem to fit into any boots. I do have a pair of brown boots I got at least eight years ago, that I love with a passion, but I can’t get that particular brand in New Zealand. And I had a pair of black boots, which I have never really liked, that needed to be replaced.

When I went boots shopping on Saturday I didn’t really expect to be successful. I thought it would be another one of the tours around Wellington’s shoe shops, with intrusive sales girls, trying to talk me into buying something I would look ridiculous in. But this time it was very different… My first stop for the day was Kumfs on Willis Street. And it turned out to be the last one as well, since I got what I wanted, and left the store smiling happily.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the store, was that it was clean and tidy. The colour scheme is pretty neutral and there are inspiring words like “beautiful”, “charming”, “warm”, “exceptional” painted all over the wall. Despite not having much room in the small shop they had a reasonably good choice of shoes and boots available. Two salesladies were present; they noticed me when I entered, but left me alone browsing for the first little while. That’s one thing I really like – there’s nothing worse for me than having someone breathing down my neck before I was even have an overview of what’s on offer. It almost seemed like a miracle that the first pair I picked up had some kind of stretchy material at the back, so it would offer enough room for my calves.

As soon as I had this Hmmm-I-would-love-to-try-them-in-my-size-look on my face, one of the saleswomen approached me and offered help. She got me my size, and half a size smaller to find the best fit. The boots were awesome and I don’t think I’ve ever bought such expensive shoes within a few minutes of entering a shop before. At the check-out I was offered a free membership at the Kumfs Club, which allows me to return my boots within 30 days if they don’t work out for me as well as some other benefits, which are not quite so important for me. Although it took some time for me to fill out the form, they allowed me to join before the purchase, so I could take advantage of the benefits with this first buy. They gave me a huge fabric bag (“yay” for not using plastic bags) which has the same inspirational words on it as I saw on the wall before. A very happy me left the shop.

But the experience did not end there. When I unpacked my new boots at home I found a Thank You note for choosing Kumfs, some care tips for my boots and a feedback form in the box. I must say, I was deeply impressed. Since then I have had a brief look at their website, and even that seems to be ok. They are even on Facebook. In their About Us section they state: “Kumfs is a family owned business that operates with passion and dedication. Part of the our vision is to have pride in the quality of our work, provide the best customer service and to always delight our customers.”

All I can say is: yes, it works. At least for me.

Update:
Wow, less than 24 hours after publishing this blog post I got an email from Kumfs, telling me they love it and asking for permission to share it with their Facebook Fans. Not only do they know how to create a brilliant customer experience in their shops, they also “get” social media. Couldn’t more companies I engage with be like this?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirsten Woodhams-Thomson April 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Hi Diane, Great post. I too am an embedded HF/UX’er. I too love Kumfs shoes – they are well designed, of quality construction and fantastically comfortable. I moved to Belgium a few years ago from NZ and really miss not having Kumfs shoes over here – my ‘local’ store is Singapore (there is one in the UK but it caters for the large foot and I have very small feet). Yes, Kumfs do a great job at social media but could improve their digital strategy further by having an online store. For me, that would be fantastic!

Kirsten Woodhams-Thomson April 14, 2010 at 9:19 pm

There is a supermarket in Belgium called Colruyt. It has a mixed character: part super saver and part luxury. An interesting mix as, in my experience, most shops offer one of these characters. They have a website where the customer can purchase online and choose from a delivery service or a pick-up-and-go service. The interior is super saver – concrete floors, bulk packed shelves to encourage bulk purchasing,… nothing flash and the shopper receives great savings in return. Like other stores they offer a loyalty card for even better discounts. This is great, but for us the experience is made even better by their customer service. There are sample tasters scattered around the supermarket; tempting for a family of six – a great place to stop over for a snack, and yes an extra and absolutely unneeded purchase every time we go in. The meat section is packed on the spot for you. The staff always let you know when an item is unavailable and help suggest alternatives. At checkout the operator stays with you the entire checkout time. At this supermarket they pack the trolley for you and if you have bags they pack these as well. A unique experience for Belgium, and greatly appreciated! At other supermarkets they almost chuck the grocery items your way and wait impatiently as you try to hurriedly pack the bags. Often I feel so hurried that I end up packing my bags out at the car. Not a great experience!

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