Retail in December

Retail is a hard job, especially so in December, the busiest shopping time of the year. There are ways that salespeople can make it more pleasant. The best way they can make it more pleasant is by being pleasant! I have a few examples of how this is being done, and how it isn’t.

I just shopped in a kitchen store and experienced great customer service from a salesperson, and poor service from the owner. Go figure! The salesperson was friendly and helpful, while the owner did not even acknowledge my presence, although she should know me given that I shop in her store often, and usually call her by name. The very least she should have done is speak to me, even if she did not use my name. But she didn’t, and not because she was busy; but because she isn’t friendly. I think I will take my kitchen shopping elsewhere. While I don’t expect someone to gush all over me, I do like my presence acknowledged, and my business appreciated.

Recently I observed two women who were upset with a waitress who was less than friendly to them, although they are regular customers of the restaurant, and she knows them well. But the waitress did not smile, did not make eye contact, and did not speak as she gave them their check. The woman sitting next to me said, “I will let my displeasure show in my tip; she does not deserve a tip.” Sometimes customers do show their displeasure in monetary ways.

Just this morning a friend and I met for breakfast at a local diner. The food was great. The service was slow, but they were busy. The waitress was friendly and service-oriented. Although the standard in that diner is to pay at the register, my friend wanted her check and credit card picked up, taken to the register, and brought back to her, although we were in a diner! The waitress got the message and took the customer service high road. We put our credit cards on the table and the waitress picked them up and took them to the register for us. That is a great example of service, doing what the customer preferred even when it was not the restaurant’s standard. And done with a smile.

Retail is hard work, very hard work. There are as many, if not more, rude customers as there are less than friendly and sometimes rude salespeople. But the salesperson has a higher calling than the customer, like it or not. A friend of mine once said to me, when I was teaching customer service principles to staff in various companies, “When are you going to teach customer service principles to the  customer?!” Well, sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. Even now when the need is even greater for customers to be nice to service personnel due to the shortage of wait staff and service personnel, even with all of the signs in businesses asking customers to “just be nice.” The onus is still on the service person to be friendly and service-oriented. The customer may get by being less than friendly or even rude, whether they should be or not. The salesperson is representing the business, and at all times should be friendly, helpful, and service-oriented. And the mere idea that the business owner is not setting the customer service standard! In those cases, let’s take our business elsewhere since the loss of business may be the only way some of those business owners will become service oriented.

Although retail is hard work, it can be rewarding work. Serving customers with a smile, being friendly, and doing all that one can to meet the customers’ needs and even (unrealistic) expectations, can pay big dividends, and not just monetarily.

It feels good to be nice to people. It feels even better when one is nice and friendly, and that attitude is returned in similar behavior from the customer. And yes, it feels good to receive above-average tips, and for the customer to commend the salesperson to others, including management. We do live in a world of reciprocity. What goes around does come around, eventually.

Watch for good service, and compensate it appropriately. Also, watch for poor service, and take your business elsewhere. And keep your cool all the while!

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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