Already today, I heard someone complaining about a poor customer service experience at a major retail chain. I hear complaints all the time and frankly I complain often. If you look at the top reasons consumers “personal or business” move to other vendors, you will quickly see poor customer service at the top. There is no doubt about it that positive customer service is a lost art in our world today.
Last night I had to return several items to Walmart. I was not looking forward to it as I had a total of 10 items to return and 2 of them were electronic items. I only had the receipt for one item and I was expecting a somewhat arduous process. However, I had spent the entire day speaking to my children about the importance of keeping a positive attitude regardless of what happens to you as the only thing you can control in life if your response and attitude. I determined to go in to this experience with a positive approach. I started by analyzing the 3 associates that might be responsible for my return and resisted the urge to judge based on their posture and facial expressions. I was able to apply a positive perspective to my own mind by looking at each one and providing a reason why they were great. I know this may seem a bit goofy, but it changed the way I was looking at them and ultimately treating them from the start. When my turn came to approach the counter, I greeted the associate with a smile and some friendly small talk. I helped her through the exchange by holding items for her to scan, telling her where and approximately when the item was purchased, offering my license as ID, and continuing in friendly conversation. When the transaction was over she looked at me and said, “thank you for being so pleasant and being an excellent customer.” At that moment, I recognized she might move mountains to provide a high-level customer experience for me.
If I’m honest, even though I was self-talking before the transaction started, this associates body language was telling me that my experience was going to be miserable. What changed? It occurred to me that by providing her “great consumer service” she in turn responded with great customer service.
I was in choir back in high school and I can still hear Mr. Nall providing great wisdom as he would open each year by telling the students “you treat me like a king and I’ll treat you like a king. You treat me like a jerk and I’ll treat you like a jerk.” It was simple, you will receive the same treatment that you give me.
Often as consumers we get this idea that we are the boss and the associate that is supporting us is somewhat less than us. Since we are the customer we get to rule over them for the moment. Maybe in some weird way, it is a way that some of us feel like we have power. We know it is their job to do as we say because we are the customer. With this attitude we often come off as a jerk and get a response in kind. Then we leave offended and tell everyone about our poor customer service experience. I know, you are thinking, well I didn’t act that way and I still received the same treatment. I hear you, but if you watch during your next visit to your favorite retail or restaurant establishment, you will see the many before you that do act that way jading the way this associate sees the customer. Is it of any surprise if they begin feeling that all customers are against them and stop providing a high level of service. I mean why even try if you’re not going to be appreciated.
Like a marriage or any partnership, Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston provide great insight. It takes two, baby! Over my years, I have observed many relationships. I have observed marriages that exceed the 50-year mark and I have also observed many relationships completely fall apart. The difference I observe is the level of attention by both individuals. When one party starts to treat the other party with disrespect and have expectations of excellence in return, the relationship inevitably falls apart.
This just has me thinking a bit differently about the decline in excellent customer service. Maybe we don’t need to fix the associate, maybe we need to improve the consumer. What if we up our game when it comes to consumer experience. I believe if we would do our part by treating our vendors with respect and understanding, we might just begin to see the customer experience rise again. It’s a partnership anyway.
It takes two, baby.
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