Last Sunday my wife, daughter and daughter-in-law were out to lunch and they decided to go look at wedding dresses, since our daughter is getting married. Since there was a bridal store in the same shopping center I agreed to tag along (not that my opinion was either asked for or needed.) What happened next left me scratching my head.
We were greeted by a young girl behind the counter whose first words were, “Do you have an appointment?” No we explained, we were just starting to look and want to get some ideas. The young girl went on to explain, “We work by appointment only. Here’s the catalog and our card so you can make an appointment.” Being rather sensitive to customer service, I didn’t say a word. But after the girls looked through some dresses and were again told they couldn’t try any on, we left. All three of the ladies begin to comment on how rudely they been treated and how they had no desire to come back to the store.
What I realized was the atmosphere the store was trying to portray was that of exclusivity. Now I understand the need for the appointment to try anything on since they only had limited sales associates and dressing rooms. I get that. But should the exclusive atmosphere warrant a snooty first impression? Should it be an excuse for poor customer service?
First of all, it’s a national chain store so that employees have no stake in the business. Secondly, my guess is that the local management has bought into the exclusive nature and doesn’t understand how to incorporate that with good customer service.
They could have easily gotten their message across in a way that would made my daughter want to come back. The greeter behind the counter could have explained why the appointment was necessary (we want to give you our undivided attention while we help you select the perfect gown.) She could have also given them a quick tour of the store, pointing out the different dresses and how the displays were organized, as well as encourage them to ask any questions they might have.
The question is, what impression do your prospective customers get when they call or come in your business? Are they really welcomed or treated like an imposition? You will probably say they are welcomed and treated royally. But would they say that? Here are a couple of ways you can find out.
1. Have a secret shopper visit your business and give you their impression. Do it anonymously. Ask someone you know to arrange a shopper and offer them something for their time (a gift card, restaurant certificate or something similar. Not a discount at your store.) This way you get an unbiased opinion.
2. Install an inbound tracking line on your phone that can be recorded. Monitor that recording periodically and review it with your sales and customer service staff. Better still have someone outside your business review it and give you their honest opinion.
3. Ask recent customers to evaluate your service and your staff. Again make it worth their time by giving them something in return.
4. Conduct periodic training with everyone that comes in contact with both customers and prospective customers. Focus on attitude, especially with regard to abrasive customers.
Not every customer or prospective customer will be pleasant. They may have just gotten chewed out by their boss, been dealing with screaming kids all day or are just mad at the world. It’s not you, but if you don’t bowl them over with your expertise and service, it will be about you. They will walk out vowing never to shop there again and tell tweet it, Facebook it, pin it and write reviews about their experience.
Make it your goal for every person that walks through your door or calls on the phone to end with a smile and a desire to do business with you again.
Oh by the way, the ending of my story. We went from this store to a locally owned store where they offered stellar customer service even though we didn’t have an appointment. They spent time with us and were genuinely interested in helping my daughter, who, by the way, found exactly what shewanted and will probably buy from them. Attitude goes a long way!