Although giving gifts is not the reason I celebrate Christmas, it is nonetheless part of the holiday. While I truly enjoy the giving part, I feel less enthused about the shopping and buying part…and not because I am male.
You might think that all employees, (particularly in retail), would be excited to see a customer anytime. And since for most companies, profitability is determined by the success of the last calendar quarter, you also might think employees would be exceptionally eager to provide memorable service during this time.
A few years ago, when my son moved into a new home, it didn’t have a microwave oven. I went to Best Buy to buy one. Although the store had lots of staff, the employees ignored me as I stood in the microwave oven aisle. So I went to the help desk. I told a young woman that I wanted to buy a microwave, but I had some questions. She said, “No problem,” (a phrase that in my opinion should be forbidden). “I will send someone right over.”
A few minutes later, I’m still standing alone. I guess it’s the business owner mentality in me, but I get irritated with poor service and lack of follow-through. I walked back to the young woman sitting at the help desk and saw 3 blue-shirted Best Buy salespeople standing next to her desk talking. One was even texting.
Get Rid of Slacker Mentality
What’s the solution? In my retail companies, I would walk around observing my employees. I did the same in my manufacturing, distributing, and other companies. A business owner doesn’t know what’s going on without being there and observing. Train your staff to be on the look-out for customers that need help. Don’t expect your people to innately know to do this. And, if you happen to be overwhelmed with customers, communicate that message to those who are waiting (and don’t use the worn-out ‘we’ll be right with you’).
Americans have developed, in the words of writer Harlan Ellison, a “slacker mentality.” Of course, not everyone is this way, but in my observations, a significant number of employees just do not seem to give a darn about their career, the company they work for, or its customers. It’s just a job.
The episode at Best Buy reminded me of a business axiom I learned years ago. When someone is trying to give you money, don’t make it difficult for them to do so. I was ready to make a $200 purchase and no one seemed particularly interested.
May I Speak With the Manager
Here’s another approach adjustment business owners can make. Have you ever been dissatisfied with how someone handled (or didn’t handle) your transaction? Did you ask to speak with the manager or owner? You would have thought that you had just asked to see their financial statements or speak with the King of Siam. I have never seen or heard about anyone meeting that request with a smile and a response of “Certainly sir, I will have him or her come to your attention right away.”
No, first it’s passed to another clerk or a supervisor who wants to know “what’s the problem.” This person may give you the results you want, but does so with an attitude that makes just being there totally uncomfortable. Its as if you, the customer, are the problem.
Training is Key
Here’s the solution. I trained all my employees and managers that if any customer ever asked to speak with the manager or the owner, that they were to get the manager directly, or give them my office phone number (since I couldn’t possibly be in all locations). If that call came to the office, I trained my assistant to never screen the call past the fact that they were a customer. The good news is that because of the on-going customer experience training I conducted, a problem like that was as rare as the steaks in the meat cooler.
A Memorable Customer Experience
Business is more competitive than ever, and both B2C and B2B customers are more discerning with their money. Customers have more choices for the services and products they want to buy than at any time in recorded history. Yet when prospective buyers walk in the door or pick up the phone, so many business owners send them running, blowing the sale on the spot.
Billionaire insurance entrepreneur A.L. Williams once said: “You beat 90% of the competition just by showing up. The other 10% you must defeat in a vicious dogfight.”
With employee’s counter-productive, anti-customer approach, so many business people I encounter today are losing right out of the shoot (as in rodeo). If in doubt, ask me about assessing what you think is good customer service and replacing it with a memorable customer experience.
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