Old Fashion Rules make New Fashion Sense

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Visiting a local supermarket in a community in the South, I am reminded of a very impactful statement I wish to make to those on the current (new) path to success.

There will always be room for the common sense approach of ‘Good Old Fashion Service’ across the board in Customer Service. Without question. Those rules of engagement, which you can read further in my book Be Ready to Dance with Your Costumer, are the difference between reaching maximum potential for success and just conducting business. Let’s look at Point Of Purchase.

Here are some core fundamentals:

NO plastic smiles just Courteous Focused Attention addressing the needs of the consumer.

No matter how many times the costumer repeats a statement or question it is NOT a problem and is to be ALWAYS answered graciously

If and when the customer needs extra time to complete the transaction they WILL be shown patience, and next in line pushers will be addressed accordingly. That is actually NOT the customer’s responsibility, it’s yours.

Customers with special instructions re handling their purchase (same goes for having a complaint/issue) are NOT annoying and are NEVER to be disregarded.

ALWAYS maintain eye contact especially in front of the angry mob facing slow or large lineups. NO heads bowed down and appearing too frustrated or busy to deal with it.

Pretty short list. Not difficult to understand. Yet, seemingly, such a hard task for so many cashiers. Why is that? Well, to help answer that let me share my common experiences, with something everyone can relate to, in what is for some that ‘twilight world’, the dreaded Grocery Store.

I am at the checkout of a local, rather large, busy-any-time-of-day grocery store. What makes this one so special is that there are always plenty of cashiers working, no lines are too long. Fine, but. What really makes this one so special is the “attitude” of all Service Personnel as I like to call them. Attentive to be certain, friendly absolutely, but gracious! My, what a lovely word. I might add that I am the one who always manages to have a say in how my goods are bagged. Yes, that one. Listen, when you are also the one who pays 9.99 per lb for the first crop of cherries early spring and hothouse tomatoes all winter you should be allowed to ask they not be placed under the potatoes or in the same bag as the frozen ice cream, right? So, back to the lovely young man ringing in my purchases. When I ask him to please be careful with my justripe avocados and peaches he very politely responds “Yes, Ma’am” (I am also the one who does not mind that phrase at all). Coming up behind him is another young man to bag my purchases. I decide to say it the same way again. The cashier does not see I am speaking to someone else and simply hears me repeat myself. He does not roll his eyes or point out that YES, I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME…..He says “Yes, Ma’am”. Again.

Now lets look at my “big city” grocers in my hometown, it doesn’t matter which one, they are all the same. Young women (usually) who simply cannot be told how to do their job even the ones who have just started, or, especially, the ones who most certainly will get it wrong every time but don't seem to understand that it is the customer who takes priority not themselves. You know the ones, working strictly by rote, watching the clock. You mean nothing to them. The minute I speak up on how I wish my produce to be dealt with, unbelievably they turn away, do not even respond and literally throw you the receipt while you’re re-bagging and begin to process the next in line.

But what is really unconscionable is the fact that these stores are seemingly unaware (for surely they would spend more time on training?) and most certainly do NOT put time in to properly train.

But why? What is the difference? Why would you not? All that time that is spent on designing and setting up and advertising and all the pretty images hanging and value-added services worked towards (think hot tables) and the monumental amount of staff to provide all this stocked shelves of wonderful goods. And what is the last thing you have to remember them by? I think I’ve made my point.

Now, what about the dear young man, my “yes Ma’am”, what’s his story? Simple, if he doesn’t take care of you someone else will. Simple. But there is one more important element of that store; the management, they are everywhere. Looking, engaging, watching, I see them. Oh yeah, and its in Austin. No self respecting Texan would be caught not opening a car door for a lady, among other things.

When I am in Texas, I never have to worry about getting what I pay for. It is painless. Because it’s not hard making the choice of where to shop for quality of service. At home, however, it just becomes too painful. Not to mention, most just accept how they are being treated. People, make a conscious choice to speak up and patron those establishments that understand how hard you work for your money. If we all took the time to source it out, no matter distance or time, we may just get what we deserve. Respect.

At this point I must share with you a story told to me by a young man, Caleb, who recently read my book on Customer Service and who is in his graduating year in a prestige university business program. Like most, he recounted how I have made him think twice about engaging as a customer and taking note of what is happening around him. He spoke to me of his recent experience standing in line at a checkout of a grocery store, behind a very elderly woman who was having trouble using the debit machine. The young male clerk, after he finished rolling his eyes and huffing four times, finally grabbed the machine back and gruffly told her she was putting her pin in wrong. Unconscionable at this point. But wait, there’s more. The woman tried to apologize to this clerk, and handed him a quarter. As a tip. She was very elderly and very sweet. His response? To tell her he doesn't need her money. I kid you not. Now, back to the very kind young man in line. As he steps up the clerk actually tells Caleb that he has to go through that several times a day. Not kidding. My guy, the courteous, respectful, dedicated-to-his-craft and will-undoubtedly-go-far young man, glares at him and lets him know that he didn't have to be such a jerk about it and left. He did tell me he wished he had done more and told someone. Next time.

Make it your duty. Don't ever let this happen and don't EVER let it happen in your shop. We CAN change the way things are done. Make that promise. Side bar: Those that know me well know how lucky that clerk was I wasn’t in that line…Just sayin.