CUSTOMER SERVICE: Missing or Just Changing

The conversation:   “Did you find everything you needed today, mam?”   “No, I could not find—INSERT PRODUCT HERE—. “  “Ok. Thank you.”

Outside of the fact the young man called me mam, what was the thank you?  No, let me go look.  Let me ask my manager if we still have it. Or may I order it for you?  This particular store must teach the staff to ask as I frequent there (stupid me?) But why ask if no action is to be taken?  Where has all the service gone?  Long time lacking, I bemoan.

Walking through an amusement park recently, I noted to my husband that not one person in park uniforms was smiling as we passed by. Granted it was trash pick-up, what is there to smile about? We followed our day visiting a local restaurant.  Outside of the fact that it took 45 minutes after we were seated to have someone come to our table, even during the meal, our water glasses and adult beverages remained empty for an indeterminable time. It was what happened when our meal arrived that is the subject of note. Okay, in the restaurant’s defense, it was a busy Saturday night, and we did have the fore thought to make reservations.  However, as our waitress delivered two of our 4 meals—after my husband took a few French fries, she whisked it away. “This is not your order, it is for another table.”  She proceeded to place the same plate in front of the man at the next table who had no clue that my husband had sampled part of his meal.

I am not alone in my lament. I have heard many friends and family express the same feelings.

One friend noted that the meal was served at a restaurant, and she had trouble flagging the waitress back to the table in order to get silverware with which to eat it! She asked another wait staff who happened by, this person said she would let her waitress know what was needed.

Whether you are in restaurants, retail stores, and even hospitals, service is lacking.

Here is another example.  During a recent trip to the emergency room when my husband had a severe nosebleed made even worse since he is on blood thinners after a heart attack, I had the fore-thought to take a print out of all the meds AND a bag filled with the actual capsules. Now let me preface this with the fact we went to the same hospital where he was treated for the heart attack—so these meds and the doctor of note should have been in the hospital computer files.   The nurse did not recognize a blood thinner on the list. She asked me first, ‘was I sure he was on blood thinner?’   I reiterated the heart attack at this location and I was sure he was. She then chastised ME for not knowing which one it was.  EXCUUUUSSSEEE me, I did not have a medical degree, and I really thought that having the pills and a print-out would answer the question.

After a 2 hour stint in the ER. .  .  excuse me, ED now (although it reminds me of a man problem every time I hear it)  and confirmation from the ED Doctor that indeed there was a blood thinner on the list, the nurse returned and as we checked out said, “You really should highlight the blood thinner so you know next time.”   It will not be necessary as the name is now imbedded in my brain. And I made a small sheet that my hubby can carry in his wallet, laminated . . . and I did forget to highlight that anyway.

As I told a friend this story, she told me the rules of thumb for service as she understood them to be at her place of business.  

A:   Acknowledge the customer. I agree.  However, the science of service becomes even more exacting.   She noted that if the potential customer/client are 10’ away from you, meet the eyes and nod.  If they are 5’ or less, you may speak to them. WOW, customer service rules are that specific!  So, let us go into a retail store.  I cannot count the number of times when I entered a store, I am acknowledged by, “Hi! Welcome to -Fill in Store Name Here—if you need anything, let me know.”  Now you say, that seems fair.  However, it is shouted at me from the opposite end of the store. No 5- or- 10- foot rule here.

I: Identify yourself.  “Hi I am –Fill your name here—I will be your server/nurse/sales person—to help.”  As retail stores go, not many tell me their name. In fact, I cannot identify who is a worker in the store as they are not identified in any way—logos, name badges or uniform.  Not knowing who they are at least by name, may hurt in the long run as many stores request the perfunctory service survey.  “Did anyone help you today?”  “”Yes, the girl over there with the multi-color hair and tattoos.”  Or even better, when they hand you the receipt with instructions to go online and take the survey.  After the shout out to let me know that they do see me, I would like to yell back, “Hi! I am Barb and I am your customer today!”

Which leads to D: Describe what you are going to do.  I already shouted I was going to do.  They need to tell me what they are going to do: Help find clothing, work on my medical issue, and take my order. Many times this is posed as a question: “May I help you?”  As a communicator, I can tell you, never ask a Yes-or-No question. It is too easy to dismiss.   Just an FYI.

After you perform your service, you arrive at the final step: T. Thank the customer. I would even add, please come back again! But that is not in the procedural rules.

The personal customer service instruction seminar that my friend attended has an added benefit of refresher course that each employee logs into on their computer to take every quarter.  I like the irony: Take the first class of customer service in person with a personable customer service professional, then relegate updates to the impersonal on line computer lesson.

Of course, some companies take customer service to the opposite extreme, “kill them with service.” You’ll understand in a minute   many retail establishments have a ‘no stop” policy. I am for the safety of an employee at all costs. You never know how someone will react when confronted.  If you see or suspect that a customer is in fact stealing items, you go to their side and “Kill them with kindness.”  You ask more questions, “I see you like these shirts, may I help you find more colors?” and you continue to help them remaining by their side while in the store. Once they leave, well, your job is done. Almost makes me feel like heading to the store to shop.

Remember, while in the store, you can do anything you want with items, such as stuff them down your pants for all that matters.    But once you leave the store, well, you are a thief.  I would think a call to security or police would be in order. Maybe it is. However, stores know through security cameras and can take photos.  They post the name and photo of the perpetrator.   As soon as the staff see this person enter, they keep by the side at all times, hopefully hampering the shoplifter, and get great customer service rankings as well...

This is just the top of the iceberg.  Phone companies, internet and cable providers, No one waits any more.  And if you really want to stump someone at the cash register, give $10. 01 for an $8.01 item. That is fodder for another observation.