Last week, I tried something different. I often train in customer service, which usually involves talking about what is good and bad service, and sometimes role playing (I like role playing!) Working with a young receptionist, she suggested that we get out of the boardroom, and experience real customer service. What a fabulous idea!
We spent over an hour trying out customer service at the front line – where else but local shopping centre Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore. Of course, both she and I have spent many many hours at Sunshine Plaza – shopping, spending time with friends, or just wandering around. But this trip was specifically to analyse the customer service we received. Walking into each shop, our aim was “let’s see what the staff do”. What do you think we experienced?
No surprises. Service was abysmal. From 12 different stores, and numerous ‘customer service staff’, it was the exception to even to be acknowledged. Several actually made eye contact, and then deliberately looked away. Some were too busy unpacking deliveries or tending to stock to greet us. As we left each store, often in less than a minute, we discussed the experience and how we felt about it. Overall, we felt unappreciated. The staff didn’t make us feel valued, or even like they wanted our business. It certainly didn’t want make us want to go back and part with our hard-earned money.
There was one exception. Walking into Michael Hill Jeweller, several staff were clustered together behind the counter. This gave us a low expectation, but we were pleasantly surprised. A lovely lady named Kim greeted us warmly, with a genuine smile. She engaged us in conversation between normal people. Noting the jewellery we were each wearing, she showed us pieces that we might actually be interested in. She offered to clean my diamond engagement ring for free. We both left with information to take back to our partners of what we had chosen (it was just before Valentine’s Day!) and details written down in store. We were there for at least 15 minutes, not being pushed at all, but simply enjoying the experience.
As a test, we went to three more jewellery shops to compare. The first sales assistant didn’t look at us. In the second store we received a very generic “can I help you with anything?” At the third store, one of two staff asked the common question of what we had planned for the day. With our standard response of “just wandering around”, she replied that she couldn’t wait for her day off to do the same. She actually complained about her job to customers! Where will I buy from next time?
I used to wonder why bad service was so prevalent, when all staff have extensive experience in both good and bad service. Now I think that maybe it’s because they’re not actively paying attention to what customer service is.. I encourage all customer service staff (including receptionists, sales people, shop assistants, wait staff, small business owners, etc.) to go out specifically to analyse the service they receive. How does this affect your perception of the business? Do you want to buy from them? Will you return, or recommend them to others? Why?
Every business has competitors. Customers need a reason to choose to buy goods or services from you and not someone else. The three areas customers use to choose whether or not to give their money to you are price, quality, and service. In the digital age, whatever your product or service is, it’s probably available cheaper and/or better from somewhere else. In order to compete, your service has to be better than your competition. Remember the famous Maya Angelou quote “people will never forget how you made the feel”. We do business with people we like. Here are some tips on how to treat your customers so that they like you.
If you feel you need help with this, I offer individual customer service coaching. This includes the experience and analysis of customer service mentioned above, theory, and on the job coaching. This three hour session is just $200 per person, or $300 for two. If you’re interested, or know of a business that could benefit, call Heidi on 0405 109 756 or email Heidi@mirrorprofessionaldevelopment.com.au, or contact us.