Word to the RetailWise VIII

Customer Perceptions

Another one of the series ‘Word to the RetailWise VIII’

Never implement policies or procedures without asking the critical questions first.

 And the questions are…

“How will this policy or procedure affect our customers?” and “How will this policy or procedure affect our employees?”

When you ask these questions, and you pay close attention to the answers, there is a very good chance you will revise whatever it is you were going to do.

Too many policies and procedures, in place today in retail stores, were developed without the customers or the employees in mind.

Below is a short story to illustrate the point….

I was standing in a long, long checkout line waiting to pay for the items I had selected. When it was finally my turn, the cashier made an error.

After I paid, she realized that she had charged me twice for the same item – not a lot of money was involved. It was a simple error.  

Not so simple to correct it though. No…Even though the mistake was identified by the cashier immediately, I had to take my purchased items and my receipt to the ‘Customer Service’ desk at the other side of the store.

When I arrived there, I had to stand in another line up to get my money back.

Here’s the thing. Many people reading this will say “Well, what else could they do?” or “How else that could be handled?” 

What I would say…and what I would encourage you to say… is “Why are we making the customer pay for our mistake? Why are we wasting their time?

And what can we do to prevent this from happening in the future?” Hint: Firing the cashier is not the correct answer!

Cashiers are human, just like everybody else, and they will make the occasional mistake. I don’t think anyone can be too upset about a simple mistake.

The cause for upset, in the scenario above, is that the cashier was not empowered to correct the mistake while I was standing in front of her, and I was inconvenienced. 

Management has done something wrong; something that should be fixed.

Perhaps the POS could have an ‘adjustment’ key, or maybe an ‘easy fix’ key? Or, how about an ‘I made a mistake and I need to fix it’ key?

I joke, but it is serious. Whatever you do, don’t hinder your people. Don’t make it impossible to give excellent service to your customers. 

Don’t make shopping difficult. When you’re playing with a customer’s time…you’re playing to lose.

I can hear it now…”but we couldn’t do that, it’s crazy to let cashiers have that kind of access; to have that kind of control”. 

Really? Do you really think that the cashier who is a thief is going to be kept in line by making sure they can’t fix their own mistakes?

Of course, you need to have some checks and balances in place, and perhaps you only allow certain things at certain times.

Of course, you don’t want to provide opportunity for theft. I am not suggesting that you give away the store.

Only that you give due consideration to these things and don’t let the solutions come at the expense of your customers and employees.

That is why the critical questions must be asked…and answers seriously considered.

If you know that customers and employees are going to be negatively affected by a procedure…then go back to the drawing board and come up with a better one.

Do whatever it takes to remove the roadblocks to excellent service.

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Beware of the condescending Sales Associate – one of the 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Service.

Recently, a colleague of mine – who happens to be very much a ‘techie’ – went shopping for a new laptop.

He had checked around and found the store with the best price for the one he wanted.

All the Store Associate had to do to get the sale was be pleasant, answer a couple of questions and it was done. 

During the conversation it became clear that my colleague undoubtedly knew more than the Sales Associate did.

And he’s used to that because he is very up to date on everything to do with computers, etc. – definitely above average in that area.

The Sales Associate should have recognized that fact and adjusted his approach accordingly.

Anyway, my colleague was going to the cash desk to pay for his new laptop and the Sales Associate accompanied him and they chatted about a service agreement that could be purchased with the laptop.

My colleague knew all about the service agreement and politely declined. 

The Associate would not give in. He pushed and pushed.

He made it sound like my colleague’s entire life was going to be ruined if he didn’t buy this service agreement. 

Now, at first, you might think “good for him, he’s really trying to sell the high margin service agreement” and, sometimes, we would agree with you.

However, this situation went way off track when the Sales Associate started getting ugly. He simply did not want to take no for an answer.

Just a note here…my colleague has purchased many electronic items over the years and is very familiar with the service agreement add-ons.

In fact, he was the National Sales Manager for a chain of electronics stores for a very well-known brand.

He had plenty of experience with service agreements and, in this case, had already made a well informed decision not to purchase it.

Back to the story…After the purchase was completed, the Sales Associate – who had taken on a decidedly unfriendly attitude – smirked and waved good-bye.

And he said “good luck with that.” And, yes, he did mean it in an entirely sarcastic way.

He was basically saying that my colleague would have problems with the new laptop and he would be very sorry he didn’t buy the service agreement. 

Well, whatever happened to …Let the Buyer Beware? My colleague was prepared to live with the outcome.

What a great experience.

After spending several hundred dollars, he had to endure one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Customer ServiceCondescension…from a Sales Associate who didn’t know enough about the profession we call sales, or the proper behavior we call courtesy.

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