My wife and I recently bought a lawn tractor from a major big box retail store. It should have been a fun, easy experience, but it turned into a headache. The salesperson who was trying to help us with our purchase was repeatedly interrupted by other store personnel who had a wide variety of problems or questions. At times, other coworkers would interrupt just because they needed to use the young lady’s computer terminal. (Apparently, we were invisible customers or our near-$2,000 purchase was not as important as the other person’s issue.)
Then the clerk could not find the item in the store (even though we were able to establish, online, from home, that they had two in stock). She couldn’t find a SKU number in her terminal (even though it was on the print-out we had created from the store’s website). And before we knew it, a transaction that should have taken 10 to 15 minutes ended up taking nearly 90 minutes.
So whose fault is all this? Well, I’d start with the store manager… whom, when we asked, was too busy to come help because he was in a department head meeting.
As customers, we had done our research online, and all of the prep work was in our hands when we walked into the store. We could have purchased the product just as easy—perhaps more easily—if we had just bought the item online. Granted, we would not have received personal service… but in hindsight, zero customer service would have been an upgrade compared to the horrible service we received.
We all have stories to tell about a transaction that did not go well… where it seemed like someone just wants to make it a pain in the neck for you to give them your money. The question is, how many of your customers have stories like that where your company plays the role of the villain?
Any of the issues in my lead paragraph here could be attributed to one of three things: Poor policies, poor execution, and ultimately, poor management.
It’s the manager’s job of a retail store to make sure every employee knows that the customer is job #1. (Neither the interrupting employees nor the meeting-bound manager understood that in our experience above.) It is the manager’s job to make sure that computer systems do more than just keep the shelves stocked… but that they also help connect customers with the products they want to buy.
As a manager, have you ever cast yourself in the role of customer, and walked through the purchase process to see what the experience is like?
Have you ever surveyed your accounts (especially the large and important ones) to ask how your sales and service process could be better?
If (when) you field calls from frustrated customers, do you just try to put the fire out, or do you take steps to solve the infrastructural issues that could prevent such failures in the future?
When it comes to stories about customer service, we can all remember many times when service has not lived up to the value of the money we spend; times when it seems no service at all would have been better than the service we received. It’s a bit harder to come up with stories about customer service that wowed you… that dazzled you… that compelled you to become a long-term customer of a store.
Great customer service is just like any other great innovation: It is not all that complicated, it just requires that you walk a mile in your customer’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.
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