Handling Customers at the Checkout:
We mentioned this briefly before, in the section regarding the positive shopping experience, but some things are worth repeating.
The check out process deserves serious attention due to the fact that it is the last impression that your customer has of his experience in your store.
Customers want to check out of your store quickly. In this ‘convenience oriented’ society, it is crucial that the checkout experience is efficient and positive.
- be friendly
- be courteous
- be efficient
If you are friendly, courteous and efficient almost any difficulty can be overcome.
For instance, when your cash registers (usually referred to as POS – point of sale) are malfunctioning, or the authorization of debit and credit transactions is unusually slow, you can ensure your customers are satisfied by being friendly, courteous and as efficient as you can possibly be.
Make sure that your customers know that you value their time. This is critical. Never assume the customer has time to waste.
Discretion: At the time of check out, a customer sometimes finds himself in an embarrassing or awkward situation – their credit or debit card may be declined, or they may not have enough cash.
This is where the skill and good judgment of the cashier or associate is put to the test.
There are ways to handle these situations without further embarrassment to the customer.
And think about this…sometimes debit or credit cards are declined for reasons that are not obvious.
Sometimes your stores’ POS system is at fault; or perhaps the financial institution the customer deals with is at fault.
There are many examples, such as: if a debit card has been compromised without the customers’ knowledge, the financial institution may cancel the debit card without first notifying the customer.
They do this for the customers’ protection but it can lead to great embarrassment when the customer attempts to use the ‘now cancelled’ card and it is declined.
So, always remember that you are in no position to make the judgment as to the customers’ financial situation. Any judgment you make could be wrong.
If a card is declined, there are things you can say – discreetly, of course – that will allow the customer to avoid embarrassment.
Here are some examples of appropriate things to say:
“For some reason, our system is not accepting your card.” And then…
“Would you like me to try it again?”
“Would you like to use a different method of payment?”
“Would you like me to hold the merchandise for you?”
All of these questions put the control of the situation into the hands of the customer. They can then proceed in the way that is most comfortable for them.
All of the following comments have been overheard in retail stores and they are perfect examples of comments that must not be made:
“Your card is declined.”
“Your card is no good.”
“Do you have cash?”
“I guess you’ll have to come back after you pay your bill.”
Take responsibility for your position: If you are a cashier, or if you are an associate who is acting as a cashier, you must know what you are doing and you must be perceived to know what you are doing.
That may sound basic but it is far from it.
The cash desk must be well stocked and everything a cashier may need to refer to must be at their fingertips.
It is very common for a cashier to give the impression that they are incompetent or uninformed.
Usually the reasons for this stem from
1) lack of training or
2) lack of management attention to what is required at the cash desk or
3) a new procedure is not working as it was intended to and no one has reported it.
So, to avoid embarrassment and to avoid making customers wait for no good reason, take responsibility for your own training – always be the first to ask the Manager if there is anything new you need to know – and also ensure that you have everything you need at the cash desk before starting a shift.
How to Learn from Customer Complaints
A complaint from a customer may be considered a “bad thing”. It means your customer is not happy.
That’s why it’s so important to figure out the reason for customer complaints.
If you want to make your customers happy, you have to start by understanding what you might be doing that’s making them unhappy.
Some retailers believe that a lack of complaints means they must be doing everything right. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider these statistics:
- 96% of customers don’t complain about poor service.
- 90% of customers who receive inferior service won’t come back to your store.
Think about it. Let’s say you walk into a store and the staff doesn’t wait on you, so you leave without buying.
Do you go back into the store and tell them that the reason you left was because they didn’t wait on you?
When you order a meal at a restaurant and it’s only 90% of what you expected (not bad, but not great) . . . do you send it back?
Certainly, some would complain. Thank goodness for those few, because the reality is that most people just don’t bother.
So, when you do get a complaint, consider that there may be 25 other customers out there who have the same criticism of your product or service, but haven’t bothered to tell you.
They’ve just decided to shop elsewhere! As part of any service quality initiative, you must seek out customer feedback.
Complaints are an integral part of that information and provide you with unparalleled opportunities to fix things.
When a customer complains about you in particular, be sure to consider it carefully before becoming defensive. Sometimes customers can teach us.
Sometimes they are wrong. Regardless, we need to listen to customer complaints and learn whatever we can from them.