Do Your Customer Service Promises Match Your Customer Service Practices?

Many businesses make bold statements about the quality of their customer service.  For businesses that engage in such boasts, it is critical to your reputation that they are true. This lesson was recently brought home following a conversation with my sister-in-law and nephew.  My nephew had signed up for a beginner’s mountaineering course and was given a list of the equipment he would need.   In search of this equipment, my sister-in-law first went to a store that promotes the quality of its customer service and promises to treat each customer as important. When she entered the store, my sister-in-law noticed 2 male clerks chatting behind the counter.  After about 10 minutes of looking around and no one approaching her she went to the counter and indicated that she had some questions.  One of them glanced at her and said ‘someone will be with you in a minute’ and then went back to talking with his colleague. While she was waiting, a young woman walked into the store and one of the male clerks promptly went over to her and asked if she needed assistance.  My sister-in-law waited another few minutes and then left when no one came over to assist her.  A few days later my nephew went into the same store and the exact same thing happened! My sister-in-law decided to give this store one more chance and went back a second time.  This time there was a female clerk who, when approached for assistance, gave the impression she couldn’t care less whether or not a purchase was made – so, no purchases were made. As someone had recommended another outdoor gear store, my sister-in-law and nephew went together to this store with the list of needed gear.  They told me that the clerk there was fabulous – not only was he a knowledgeable mountaineer but he seemed genuinely interested in my nephew’s upcoming course.  He also perused the equipment list and gave helpful advice on various products and on ways to save money. The long and short of it was that clerk made several hundred dollars in sales that day.  Additionally, the story of the poor service of the first store and the excellent service of the second store has been told to many people.  In my nephew’s words “I’d really need a good reason to ever go into (the first store) again”. The first store represents a serious case of ‘over-promising and under-delivering’. How can a situation like this be avoided?  The key is making sure you’re adequately training, supporting and rewarding your staff.  Do they even understand how to property serve customers?   Are you keeping an eye on how they interact with customers and providing constructive coaching to help them improve their approach to service?  Are you supporting them when they are faced with a difficult or hard to please customer?  And, lastly, are you acknowledging them when they do well – either verbally or financially (e.g., paying a commission on their sales on top of a decent base wage)? If you have staff who treat customers poorly, like the ‘first store’ described above, you can be pretty certain that your reputation, market share and bottom line are all losing out.  In today’s uber-competitive retail environment, that’s not good news. Dinah White (MA, CBA, CMC) – Senior Consulting Manager

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