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What I Learned About Customer Service From An Unexpected Source

What I Learned About Customer Service From An Unexpected Source

I do a lot of writing about customer service and the customer experience. Needless to say, when I go shopping for products and services, I pay close attention to how retail employees interact with customers. 

That being said, I’ve learned not to expect much when I make a trip to my local Walmart.

Typically, I plan on finding items on my own because past experiences have led to frustration when employees couldn’t tell me where products were, or even if they had them in stock. Then there’s waiting in long lines only to reach a cashier who barely acknowledges my presence and half-heartedly shoves my items in bags and hands me a receipt with a rushed, “Have a nice day” in a monotone voice that is anything but sincere. 

“Every interaction with your company, whether offline or online, is another opportunity for your customer to determine if you are exceptional or not.”

Source: Lisa Masiello via FitSmallBusiness

I was expecting the usual employee apathy when I dropped by Walmart on the Monday after Thanksgiving, but I got something totally unexpected.

As I waited in the checkout line, I overheard the conversation of the cashier and the woman ahead of me. “Your name is Ruth?” he asked the woman.” When she nodded, he continued, “I love that name because it’s also my sister’s name.” The elderly cashier continued to engage the customer until all of her items were rung up and bagged.

But he wasn’t done, yet. He carefully folded the customer’s receipt and walked out from behind his POS station. Handing her the receipt, he extended his other hand to shake hers. “Thank you for coming in today,” he said. “Please come back and see us again, won’t you?”

“One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of your attention.”

Source: Jim Rohn via FitSmallBusiness

My mouth fell open a little (okay, a lot) until my cynical side kicked in and I thought, “Well, I’m pretty sure that was an isolated incident.” Then it was my turn. Immediately, I was engaged in conversation, and when he ascertained that I was off work for the day, he said, “Well, I’ll just hand over your candy bar and Pepsi right now, instead of bagging it, because you deserve a treat right now. After all, it’s your day off. “

The pleasant banter continued until he’d finished bagging my items, after which he came around his station to hand me the receipt and shake my hand. “Thank you for shopping with us today. I hope you’ll come back and see us soon.” His voice was sincere and his smile was as genuine as my shock.

I walked away with a smile on my own face and a feeling that I was appreciated (something I can honestly say I’ve never felt before at Walmart).  

“Choose to deliver amazing service to your customers. You’ll stand out because they don’t get it anywhere else.”  

Source: Kevin Stirtz via Wise Old Sayings

So what does my experience mean for you as a retailer? Speaking as a consumer, I can tell you the following:

1. What your employees say matters…a lot 

Every interaction your employees have with a customer is a chance to delight or displease. 

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.”

Source: Blaise Pascal via FitSmallBusiness 

Making sure each and every customer interaction conveys your gratitude will go a long way. “Thank your customers — for everything,” says HubSpot. “Thank them for their patience if your company experiences an outage or disruption in service. Thank them for understanding if you or your company makes an error. Thank them for their loyalty when they renew or buy again. Thank them for taking the time to share their feedback, whether it’s good or bad.”

2. Remember the Golden Rule

It may sound prosaic and simple, but treating your customers the way you yourself would want to be treated will help you and your employees deliver a higher standard of service. 

As HubSpot says, “The customer service golden rule should be “Treat customers as you want to be treated as a customer.” 

“Treat the customer as if you are that customer.” 

Source: Gena Lorainne via FitSmallBusiness 

3. Attitude is Everything 

The attitude you have towards your customers has a huge impact on their relationship with your brand. If you’re indifferent and/or negative, your retail business will suffer. Simply put, you have the responsibility to serve your customers in an exceptional manner each and every time—whether they’re the first shopper or the last shopper of the day.

“Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us.” 

Source: Earl Nightingale via FitSmallBusiness 

Your customers must be made to feel that they are important to you, so serve them with a smile and a positive attitude, which will help them remember you and want to come back. 

With the right attitude, you can be the best (or worst) ambassadors a company can have! 

4. Just Because Customers Shop at Your Store Doesn’t Mean They’re Loyal 

I shop at Walmart because I’m price conscious. But that doesn’t mean I’m exclusive. Nor does it mean I don’t get frustrated with bad service experiences or that I won’t share those experiences with others. 

“The most powerful display of customer satisfaction is positive word of mouth.” 

Source: Steven Lowell via FitSmallBusiness 

And I’m not the only one. While many consumers won’t make a formal complaint with you, they’ll often choose to shop elsewhere and/or share their disgruntlement on social media and with friends and family.

On the other hand, consistently providing great customer service can turn your customers into powerful advocates for your brand, resulting in both new and repeat business.

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” 

Source: James Cash via FitSmallBusiness 

Conclusion

While my experiences with Walmart haven’t all been bad, they haven’t exactly been memorable either. Until the day a cheery cashier personally shook my hand and thanked me for shopping with them.

You control the level of service you give your customers. And that’s important. After all, as a retailer doing business in an environment where consumers have more choices than ever before, how you treat your customers is a key differentiator.

 “Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.” 

Source: Ken Blanchard via FitSmallBusiness 

True, there are many factors that can affect the in-store experience (products, prices, store environment, etc.). But customer service will always be one of the most crucial weapons at your disposal when it comes to influencing how shoppers perceive your brand.

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Also published on Medium.

About The Author

Sherene Funk

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and the eBook The Small retailer's Ultimate Guide to Increasing In-Store Sales. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime (but that doesn't stop her from collecting more). A graduate of Brigham Young University, she has published several humorous non-fiction articles and worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current position as a writer on modern retailing at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with other small business owners through informative articles that address their unique needs.

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