December 04, 2013

Good Customer Service

I had an interesting conversation with my dad the other day.  We were discussing the completely lousy customer service we had each recently experienced in two different cities at stores belonging to the same national chain of crappy tire & hardware stores.  During the conversation, I told my father that one of my coworkers, who lives in yet another city, had told me on Friday about a very positive and helpful experience she’d had at the same chain in her local town.  My dad commented, “Wow, you don’t hear that too often.” 

This is what made the conversation so interesting:  We found it remarkable that the store provided good customer service!  It left me reflecting later on the fact that the service at this particular chain has degraded so much that we accept poor service and bad attitude as the norm and remark on it when we receive good service.  Has our world devolved to this? 

My late best friend kept a gratitude journal for years.  Each day she would jot down something for which she was grateful, even if sometimes it was only that the day was finally over.  She was visiting me in my new rural locale a few years after I moved out of the big city (where she lived) and I brought her to town to shop.  There is a Sears store in the mall in the small city of 27,000 or so that is a half hour from my home.  My friend was able, with some assistance from the clerk, to find what she was looking for and decided to buy it.  As she paid, the clerk offered her a smile and wished her a nice day.  I had shopped at this Sears several times and so I thought nothing of this until my friend grabbed my arm as we left the store and said, “She smiled at me and I think she meant it.”  She was completely thrown off because the clerk smiled, made eye contact, wished her a pleasant day…and meant it.  My friend actually decided to write about this in her gratitude journal that night.  Having lived in the big city, I completely understood why.  Interactions with strangers are so brief and impersonal, often without eye contact, and often not even all that polite or pleasant. 

I know that stores need to know when things are not going well for their customers, but stores also need to know when things are going well.  Pick up a pen (or your computer keyboard) and write a note to the store’s management.  Let them know that you’ve received exceptional (for these days) service, on which date you were at their establishment, and exactly who helped you in such a positive way.  It’s these outstanding staff that can turn your lousy experience into a positive one that leaves you smiling and these people deserve recognition.  Don’t forget to smile back at them, say thank you, and wish them a pleasant day too…and mean it.