Living & Dying on Customer Service

Living & Dying on Customer Service


We've spent years now listening to both retailers and consumers talk to us about customer service — the good and the bad.

We thought it might be fun this month, in keeping with our Retail Look Book theme, to simply list some of what we've been treated to on this topic—stories from within the imaging industry and some from outside our walls.

Customer service remains a hot topic, and in this age of social media, tweeting and blogging, the consumer voice, both happy and angry, is now a very powerful one. Here's a random sampling of some of what we've heard:

The Good

“My son had requested a book for his birthday so we headed off to the local Barnes & Noble where we live,” explained Neal McGrane of New York. “The woman behind the counter looked in the computer inventory to see if they had the book my son wanted. She said it was in stock but still packed away. She went to look through the packed books but couldn't find it. The next shipment was arriving the following week. This young lady then called the competition, Borders, and requested they check their inventory. She gave me the contact name at Borders and told me to just go up to the counter and my book would be waiting.”

The Bad

“Headed into a local Best Buy to look into buying an external hard drive as I'm drowning in various digital files these days,” began Pat Boehm of Virginia. “I started out asking some very basic questions about storage solutions and the young man helping me actually said, 'Not too swift, are you ma'am?' I should have asked to speak to a store manager but I was so stunned and insulted I just immediately left the store. Still a bit shell shocked.”

The Quotes

How about a few quotes you should never hear from your sales team as they interact with your customers. Here's a few we've been told have actually been uttered in the last few years either over the phone or face-to-face:

“I am sorry you called us to complain when you were busy. We are open 24 hours a day. Perhaps call back when things are less hectic for you.”

“Ma'am, stop talking for a second. It's my turn to speak and you're not listening to me.”

“I am sorry but that's our policy.”

“My shift is over for the day, but I'll hand your problem off to someone else before I leave.”

“If the camera doesn't power on, I can't trouble shoot, and if it isn't powering on, it has to be something you did that made it not work. Can't help you. Sorry.”

There are so many elements to running a retail business today and many of them are difficult to control. The one that always remains in your hands is customer service. Either you dedicate your staff to being really good at it or you let it slip down the priority list year after year.

Done correctly the returns can be huge. Handled shoddily and the damage can be irreparable.

“In survey after survey that I've seen, bad customer service, more than anything else, is the No. 1 thing that consumers simply won't tolerate today and the single biggest reason they will quickly scratch a location off their shopping list for good,” concluded retail analyst Scott Rankin.

I'm sorry, but that's our policy…and we're sticking with it.

Michael McEnaney