Earlier this year we kept a journal of all of our customer service experiences for a 10-day period. Several of our experiences were incredible. The associates were helpful and friendly and the stores were fun to do business with, but to be frank, most of our experiences were less than stellar. Even in the best stores:
* While in the better sportswear section of a department store that brags about its great service, three sales associates walked right by us. Twice. When we approached the cash wrap to ask for help, we encountered another associate on the telephone, on an obviously personal call. In the three minutes we stood there she never once looked at us. We walked away.
* At the big box home improvement store we couldn’t find anyone on the sales floor to help us. While paying for our purchase, we mentioned this to the cashier who responded, “Yeah, we hear that a lot.”
* We decided to purchase three t-shirts in a specialty boutique. The shirts were $19 each or $15 for two or more. The cashier said that because we had three we would only receive the discount on two of the shirts. The third would be full price. We said that didn’t make sense, but she insisted until we crossed the store and retrieved the sign. It read,” T-shirts $19.00 each, two or more just $15.00 each”.
* At the office supply store we made 48 photocopies of a single sided handout and purchased one three ring binder and one set of binder tabs. The cashier rang the sale and said, “Your total is $238.38. How would you like to pay?” We just stood there until she asked what was wrong. We had to point out that the total seemed a little much, like $200 too much. She had mistakenly charged us for 48 sets of binder tabs instead of one. The huge total didn’t seem strange to her until we pointed it out.
The most common thing that happened to us was … nothing. In 12 stores associates on the sales floor ignored us and the cashiers never said hello, made eye contact, or thanked us for our purchases. These weren’t stores, they were vending machines.
Yes, we all have bad days and yes, customers can fall through the cracks, but there is absolutely no excuse for the service – or lack of service – that we received. Associates who are on the telephone or helping another customer can still acknowledge other shoppers with a smile. That simple, small gesture, that takes no effort at all, makes a customer feel welcome.
Customers today have more shopping choices than ever before, and people choose stores based on THEIR perception of the store, not the great copy or fancy photos in store ads. It’s all about the customer’s personal in-store experience. The simple fact of the matter is that if you ask someone to tell you a customer service story they will most likely tell you about a bad experience, even if their last experience was a good one. We know because we ask this question all the time. We aren’t really sure why they choose to share a bad story; maybe because customer service has a bad reputation or because it happens to be true. Or maybe it’s because we can embellish bad stories to amuse our friends. “That’s nothing! Did I tell you what happened to ME?
What a customer says about you is 10 to 20 times more believable than what you have to say about yourself. And what they say can deeply affect your bottom line. It’s a proven fact that an unhappy customer will tell up to 10 others about their bad experience. Some will tell even more. And the story gets more exaggerated each time they tell it. And even worse: when customers tell other customers, that bad service story spreads like a virus, ultimately causing other customers not to shop in your store.
CONSISTENTLY good customer service is what wins the day. And the customer. Don't leave anything to chance this holiday season; make sure your service shines!
Buy the customer service poster pictured above here: