How to Prevent Customer Service Nightmares in Your Retail Store

If there’s one place you wouldn’t expect to experience bad customer service, it’s the Ritz Carlton. The very name evokes visions of high end, concierge-quality service, regardless of which location you stay at.

So when The Retail Doctor had one of the worst customer service experiences of his life there, his subsequent review was scathing, to say the least.

When he discussed his experience with an executive of The Ritz-Carlton organization, the man apologized and told him, “We should have reeled you in after the first misstep, but somehow you just kept falling further down the hole.” Then he said, “You gave us multiple chances to come back, but we didn’t.”

Why did the Ritz Carlton fail to deliver good customer service?

Because the staff wasn’t all on the same page.

While they may have been allowed to operate under their own good judgment, obviously not all of them actually had good judgment when it came to customer service.

Don’t Leave Customer Service Open to Interpretation

According to The Retail Doctor, good customer service doesn’t just happen. “It’s based on good judgment. Which is based on good training.”

In general, when you leave something open to interpretation, it fails. A good analogy The Retail Doctor uses is to think of your customer service vision as a bowl of apples; and every employee as a different painter. If you asked them to paint the bowl of apples, some would paint them in different colors, while others would paint them like Jackson Pollock, and some might paint the apples in a Picasso-esque fashion. Those of your employees who don’t even like apples would probably paint something very different than the rest.

Unless you instruct each painter in detailed lessons on how to create the picture you envision, you’re probably not going to get what you expect and your paintings of the bowl of apples are going to be very inconsistent.Similarly, if you don’t train your employees on what you expect for service standards, they’re not all going to deliver the same level of customer service you’d like them to.

Unfortunately many aspects of training are thought of as “out of fashion” in today’s modern world. Retailers seem to approach training as something to be endured, focusing instead on how little they can get away with.

That’s not enough to help you compete against online retailers or your brick and mortar competitors.

Retail Sales Training = Business Success Insurance

When you make the connection between good service and selling more, you’ll understand why retail sales training is really insurance for the success of your business.

“What helps people, helps business.”  Source: Leo Burnett, Advertising Executive

Training your employees isn’t something you do just once; it’s something you do continually because you’re committed to delivering exceptional service to your customers.

Your training must be detailed and thorough. Everyone must be on board with how to “paint the bowl of apples”.

If you want to provide an exceptional experience for your customers, you must first create an exceptional training experience for your employees where everyone is exposed to the same material.

“Role-playing is the key to absorption of your training material,” says The Retail Doctor.  When things go south at your store, all of those bad experiences can be used in role-play exercises so everyone knows what should have happened. Without role-playing and frequently following up, your employees won’t be able to connect the training you gave them with the behaviors they are expected to uphold.

If you truly want to change your shoppers’ experience, you need to adopt the mindset that your employees’ training is a continuous process meant to improve the life of your customers.


Someone once said:

“Profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your employees.”

If your vision is to deliver the best customer service in retail, half-hearted attempts at employee training aren’t going to help you get there. Creating exceptional retail customer experiences requires continuous training and a lot of hard work.

The way customers feel as they leave your store is a direct result of your passion, integrity, dedication, and your commitment to providing consistent and superior training experiences for your employees.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.