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Customer Service: A Thing of the Past? Part II

How many employees does it take to ignore one customer?

In my previous posting I wrote about customer service. I singled out the Walt Disney World resort and my observations as they handle millions of guests/customers yearly. The point was how larger businesses go out of their way to ensure they attend to the customer’s needs. As companies grow they lose sight of their customers needs.

Whether by putting profits first or being “too” busy, small businesses can also become preoccupied and ignore customers. Attention to your customers is one of the most important facets of your business. I’m talking about your customer’s needs and satisfaction, as well as how they perceive the business treats customers. This can be attempted by greeting the customer when they enter the store, but lost when the customer is waiting to be helped and they see employees doing everything but helping customers. 

Just recently I went into a small store. The floor space was setup in a rectangle with a long glass counter on one side. The business’s main products were displayed in the glass counter. I could see one employee moving about the floor and four behind the counter. One was working with another customer. The rest were talking to each other. I stood at the counter not really looking at the products but politely waiting to be helped. Across from me, two employees were talking and eventually moved their conversation farther down the counter. After several minutes of not being addressed I considered leaving but decided to time how long it would take to be approached. From the moment I started timing, until I was addressed, was four minutes. Which doesn’t sound long, but it is when you are waiting to be helped. This is not the first time I’ve experienced this sort of customer indifference. It is more shocking when you are in a smaller store when the employees outnumber the customers.

How about a bigger store where the employees have desks or stations in plain view of the customers? These stores give the appearance of their attention to customer service but the employees may not get it. You know the kind, the customer service counters with no walls and lots of brightly color shirted employees walking around looking like they are busy. As the wait continues, you start to notice that there is one employee servicing the line, one making copies, two speaking to each other, one on the telephone, and another coming in and out of several doors like they are in some sort of maze. The whole time you’re standing there wondering if you are in fact invisible. Nothing looks worse to customers and adds to their displeasure than seeing unmanned stations with what appears to be plenty of help ignoring the situation. If the employees are in view of the customer they need to be attentive to the customers.

It is a good practice to clearly identify your employees with matching uniforms. It is also good practice to have them in plain sight out on the “floor." The negative comes in when none of the employees will acknowledge the existence of customers within the business. The employees don’t feel empowered that it is in their best interest to provide service. Naturally employees have to transition from one part of the business to another, whether they are coming on or off a break or helping a customer. But they shouldn’t ignore customers, taking a it’s “not my job” attitude.

The use of customer greeters or guides is being seen more often. They meet you at the door with a friendly salutation, inquire as to the nature of your visit, and then direct you to the proper person or area of the store. Some businesses have added electronic queuing to this process. This process allows the customer to be greeted and feel welcome, their needs are attended to, and they have a sense of personal attention. The customer does not wonder around the business trying to flag down an employee. Even if there is a wait, the customer feels that they were properly directed and is more patient.

Know you customers and your customers needs. Periodically review your policies and your own involvement with customer service. Put this service first and your business will grow.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cecilia Pfau November 06, 2011 at 06:29 PM
It's great that you're addressing these issues. Unfortunately, more often than not, when I go to some stores, I end up getting very frustrated by the lack of service and just overal "good manners" of the employees. If the employee is talking to me there isn't any eye contact and they're looking over me, around me or watching what another employee is doing instead of taking care of business. Also, when finishing a transaction what is so hard about saying "thank you"? When I walk into JC Penney's, I am greeted by every employee I come in contact with and always asked if they can be of service. That is so refreshing. Some store clerks make it obvious that they have racial issues by chatting very nicely with some people and when a "different" person comes up to their register, they barely look at a person. Stores and managers need to start looking at the "small details" like these because these are very important when you're out there spending money at their establishment. I usually shop on-line to avoid all of this ignorance. Our society is going backwards so fast it makes a persons head spin.
Terri Chasson November 10, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I am happy you are adressing thi sissue, however, I feel it is just going to get worse with our eletronic age. The majority of young people have no idea how to communicate because all they do is text and e-mail, they do not know how to make eye contact. I have tried shopping on line however, I end up returning quite a few things because I do not like how they feel, I am a very touchy feely kind of person and I want to see how things are made, You also do not get the sales on line all the time. We are in a very sad state of affairs with customer service, I like to be greeted when I go in but not jumped at or attacked, I will say the Starbucks at Waugh Chapel shopping center has very good customer servcie and so does Caribou Coffes. Maybe we should report the place with good customer service and we can all just shop there. Another store is Coldwater Creek in Annapolis they are excellent,
Jim Meyers November 10, 2011 at 10:54 PM
wait till the new Wegmans opens in Crofton. You wont shop anywhere else.

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