Last night I was out buying a new kitchen faucet at Canadian Tire (with my five month old daughter asleep and in tow). I was looking for a specific faucet that I found on sale on their web site. The web site had in-store stock information (awesome!) and it was in stock everywhere. When I got to the closest location, the shelves were empty but the big yellow sale tags were there. So I grabbed a tag and tracked down an employee. For starters, finding someone to help you at Canadian Tire is a chore in itself. The guy I found was walking through the hardware section so I stopped him and asked if he could check the computer to see if they had any faucets left. I was holding out the tag with the SKU on it. Guess what he said?
Go on, guess.
“Sorry, I work in sports. You need to find someone in hardware.”
Then he walked away.
Yeah. Just like that. It was that bad.
He didn’t page someone in hardware for me. He didn’t help me locate someone working in hardware. He walked away. And remember, he was walking through the hardware section. All I was asking him to do was to check for stock on the computer. They know how to do that in the sports section. There were two computers within 12 feet of us.
So the sleeping baby and I had to keep walking around the store to find “someone in hardware” who actually works in hardware. Aaaaarrggghhh.
This was about 20 minutes before closing time. I’ve written before about customer service being worst right before closing. I worked in a grocery store as a teenager and I remember how tough that final stretch of a shift can be. The problem is not specifically the employees but the customer service ethos of the organization.
If there is something simple you can do to help a customer, do it. It does not matter if it is your department. Otherwise you leave a customer scorned. Meanwhile in your own department there may or may not be someone needing your help. If there is, you’ve scorned a customer to get to another one sooner, but that other customer is at worst impatient and underserved. That’s bad but not as bad as actively scorning a customer. If there isn’t another customer waiting, you’ve scorned a customer for nothing.
If you manage people who serve customers, you must foster an environment in which excellence in customer service is expected and celebrated. The customer service ethos in your company must be nurtured and monitored. Take pride in it and customers will love you for it.
I went into a Rona a few weeks back with an MSDN Developer Expert blue vest on and I had to take it off after being approached by three people asking for paint advice. I figure “Sorry I don’t work here” is a better answer than “Here, try this can” when I have no idea if it’s suitable or not. 🙂
I have yet to encounter a store that has found the sweet spot between “Can I help you?” when I’m just browsing and “Where are the people who work here?” when I want to find something quickly. If that could be bottled, it could make a fortune (along with scissors that only cut grey hair).