Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

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It happened again. Just yesterday I experienced one more glaring example of customer indifference. Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not referring to indifference on the part of the customer.  I am talking about indifference on the part of the clerk.

I had made my almost daily trip to my neighborhood grocery.  I wish I were one of those shoppers who gets it all right in one weekly trip, but I don’t. There was a new cashier at  one of the registers so I decided to check her out while she checked me out.  You need to know that this grocery store is notorious for poor customer service.  However, hope springs eternal and every time a new cashier arrives on the scene, we all wait with baited breath to see if this one will be different. Sadly, she wasn’t.

The new cashier was a pretty young woman with long dark hair and big brown eyes.  I can’t speak to her smile, I never saw it.  Not wanting to subject her to a severe test of her customer service skills, I smiled at her while she stared me down and said, “Hello, how are you?”  There was no response.  She just stood at her post, arms crossed, watching me struggle to get a case of diet coke and several large bottles of water out of the poorly-designed grocery cart that the owner had purchased second -hand. Once I had heaved them onto the counter, she rang them up, and in a voice, flatter than an untuned piano, pronounced the total.

While she was placing my few items into bags, I swiped my credit card through the machine as usual.  When the clerk turned back to the register, she inquired with obvious disinterest, “Credit or debit?”  I replied and was proceeding to put my items back in the cart when she ordered me in an irritated tone to “push the green button.” I did as told for fear of being growled at again and signed the receipt she pushed under my nose.

With another unsuspecting customer/victim behind me, I hastened to move on, but not without turning back to the cashier and with a less than sincere smile, saying “Thank you.” It seemed to me that those were her lines, but I said them anyway. As far as the cashier was concerned, I was history and deserved not so much as the meaningless phrase, “Have a good day.”

For me it was an educational opportunity lost. Sometimes I don’t let these moments escape me, and I politely offer suggestions to those who are involved in customer contact.  My little training tips are not always enthusiastically received, but I provide them anyway in hopes that the employee will benefit by the experience and the business will profit.

I love my little neighborhood grocery store, and I don’t want it to go out of business.  There is a larger chain store a few miles down the road with lower prices and about the same level of customer service.  If the manager of the little store spent more time training his employees to treat the customers with courtesy and respect, his customer base would grow and his profits would increase.  As it is, he struggles everyday to keep his doors open.

If more business people made an effort to provide their employees with customer service skills and if they held their toes to the fire when they didn’t meet the standards of kindness, courtesy and respect, they would spend less time and money dealing with employee and customer turnover. Think how much it costs to replace an employee and to recruit a new customer–far more than it does to offer professional development skills to the current work staff.

I look forward to the day when treating customers like the special people they are becomes a business priority and when every employee understands that without customers, they have no job.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

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