Will Customer Service Ever Return to Business Owners

So last night, my wife wanted to go out and purchase a fire pit fueled by propane. We had seen these all over last year and this year, not so much. Along with that, her family is coming into town this weekend, so a chance for her to show it off. After going to a couple of different stores, we finally find something in what we are looking for. What got me was the help that we had received in making our purchase(s).

Now to put out there, we were at a regional home improvement store. Large enough in size and stature that they should put a little training into customer service. Maybe that is the problem, they only put a little training into customer service. Then on top of that, maybe they don’t go back and refresh that training? Still leads me to the question, what has happened to customer service?

Now, I am not going to take the cop-out answer here that it is the younger generation and they just don’t care. While they don’t have the same priorities that we do, they still have motivations and drivers that move them. Besides that, I still believe that customer service comes from the Management team and what they do. Case in points from last night.

Now, the kid that came walking past me last night with the vest that said Courtesy Patrol across the back was only responding to how he has been trained. Sure, he shuffled his feet in front of my wife and I and didn’t say a word. Then came back around, still shuffling his feet, and walked back in front of us. Then opens up the cage for propane tanks. Now his first words to us were, do you have your receipt? Then has a displeased / dismayed look when my wife had to dig it out of her purse.

With our conversation over, propane tank in hand and headed to our vehicle. We remark about the young man and lack of “courtesy”. This issue was actually set up minutes earlier in the night. Personally, I don’t find pleasure shopping at this store because much of the customer service is that way. Once we received help in the gardening area, he headed to the check out with our purchase. There, only 2 lines were open, with about 10 shoppers at each line.

Now the store manager, decided to open a third line and run it himself. So, here you have a manager tied up in checking people out. One of his employees comes up with a report and request. To which the manager tells her to put it on his desk and he will get to it. To which she replies that it has been there for a week with no movement. Lines are still backed up for the 2 open registers and he decides that he has helped enough. So now, he is logging himself out to go on break. The cashier at our register has to ask three times for him to have someone come out and pull a propane tank for us. I wasn’t quite sure we would get anyone there…

Why would the manager of that store, expect that his people would treat his customers any better than what they got treated by him? So here are 5 items that I think improve customer service:

1. Treat your employees like you want them to treat your customers. They are your intangible assets. They can make or break the customer experience. Treat your employees like they are important to your business and they will treat your customer like they are important to your business.

2. Catch employees doing the right thing. When you see employees treating your customers correctly or doing something right in the store. Be specific with your praise on what they did. They will repeat that.

3. Doing the wrong thing? OK, I know not every employee is going to do the right thing 100% of the time. When they are doing the wrong thing, don’t chastise them in front of the customer. Try and correct the issue while taking care of the customer and allowing the employee to save face. None of us like to be shown that we are idiots, so don’t do it. Allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them will make a stronger person and allow them the ability to act. If you support them, they will take initiative instead of waiting to be told to do something.

4. Know your people, how can you relate, talk or carry on a conversation with someone if you don’t know anything about them? Show interest in them, they will in turn show interest in your customer.

5. Don’t think that customer service is a once and done skill. It takes evolution, reinforcement and persistence to turn an “OK” team into an exceptional customer service team. Will take longer if you weren’t at the OK part. Even the strongest performing teams need reminders and refresher. So make it an ongoing habit, you will be rewarded.

Customer service is not a dead trait for those of us in business. Some of us perform at it better than others because we realize that we are always working at it.