Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Was that OK Customer Service? Not even CLOSE!

Cheery, Bright, Exciting, Caring: None of the Above

National Shopko Sales Training Management:

To Whom It May Concern:

We just bought eight bottles of laundry soap at your Midvale, Utah store.  At $2.99 a 72 ounce bottle compared to the same size bottle of Tide at $14.00 it was a fine value, but we almost walked away because of the way we were treated.

I write my reactions to the way the cashier and the shift manager treated us.  No, they didn't abuse us, but after years my wife and I have worked in retail customer service, I'm hoping that this report to you on the reaction of Jenna and Chris under pressure, will give you a little ammunition for your next sales training.  

We rarely come to Shopko--and by the empty parking lot, neither do many, many others.  

We came from the ad--in fact the price on the laundry soap was so good, that we bit this loss leader and bought $125 worth of things we liked that were also well priced.

Then we got to the check stand.  

The laundry detergent rung in at $6.99 a bottle (the before the sale price)  Jenna, the otherwise nice check stand woman said, "Oh, I'm sorry.  Your coupon doesn't take effect until tomorrow!"

Standing firmly and using an even voice I announced, "No, $2.99 was the price on the display and that's the one we'll have, thanks!  Jenna looked at me like I had flame coming out both nostrils.  She feigned a certain politeness, but she started our "confrontation" blaming the computer.  I stood my ground.

Finally, Jenna said she'd call somebody.  This took several minutes.  To her credit she kept ringing up the other items when the phone at her station rang in.  Finally Chris, the shift supervisor showed up and the tension he brought with him was palpable.  There was no reassurance of either clerk or customer.  He ran the detergent.  When it came up $6.99 he "fixed it" by scanning the bottles again and re-keying in each one of our eight bottles by hand and walking away after he repeated that the sale on the mailed out flyer was supposed to start tomorrow.  

Again, we got no reassurance, no apologies for their lack of preparation or antiquated computer programming. No smiles.  Like inmates in a concentration camp, we were made to feel guilty for standing up for ourselves and our rights.

Enough of the "IF ONLIES"

Now for the "NEXT TIMES"

1.  Reprogram the Computer nationwide to shorten the time re-pricing takes.  Yes, I pay hard earned money  for what I buy--but klunky sales procedures that waste my time in line costs my time--which is valuable, at least to me and the people behind us waiting in line wondering what the big bruhaha is.

2.  Prepare for the Sale a day or two early if the mailer hits before the date!  In the meantime, coordinate the price at the point of purchase and the computer.  Checklists are needed here!

3.  She who lives by the Computer will die by the Computer.  Everybody is lazy.  If the customer will roll over to the computer--you can go on with your life as a sales clerk without involving your manager or pushing all those pesky buttons!

4.  Don't treat me like the problem!  The frowns from Chis especially and his caustic comment that made me feel guilty for being THE PROBLEM was not my fault.  I did my part.  I came in on the ad, bought a years supply of laundry detergent and picked up an additional $125 dollars of other stuff.  DON'T YOU DARE TREAT ME LIKE THE PROBLEM!

5.  Treat me as a great reason for a solution!  Lazy Sales folks are used to blaming the computer, and avoiding the extra steps that clog up the line.  We play a little game, Here's the do over lines I would write for Jenna:  "Don't worry about the price on the computer.  I can fix that for you."  I could boycott Shopco forever for her minor rudeness, but I would promise myself to come back if I knew with just that comment in yellow that Jenna (and others on the staff) were pulling for me. Even if she CAN'T fix it, it doesn't cost anything to say those words!  It makes me feel better.

6.  Management should confine negative energy to the back room.  Chris, to his credit, asked if he could help me find something when I was wandering the store a few minutes earlier.  All that goodwill disappeared when he scowled at me and blamed an early ad drop.  I had to ask HIM if we got the sales price.  He begrudingly told me I would, over his shoulder as he walked away.   WRONG!  If he had said something like,  "I'm so sorry, Mr. Howe for the time it took to resolve that problem.  Obviously we've got to get ready for the sale a little sooner!" That's all I want.  A sales staff who knows the difference between easy smarmy friendly and real service when the chips are down.  I'd be very suprised if Chris took the time to solve that problem before it happened again after we left.

The same Chinese konji character for "crisis" can also mean "opportunity".  When the chips are down, the truly great increase genuine kindnesses.  Even Richard Nixon, interviewing bureaucrats who galled him would offer another cup of coffee or presidential cufflinks.  Nuf said!

Mrs.and Mrs. Jon and Rosie Howe
Secret Shoppers in our Hearts


Monday, August 8, 2011

Not "Snooty" Enough!

One of the joys of parenthood is to get a call like we did from our daughter today.  She called to let us know that "they" were finally accepted to the Master's Program at the U--something they have both been working for.  Sally won't actually be going to class--her job is academic support while Dani will be going to classes--as she did for her Bachelors at the University of Phoenix.

Her call reminded me of the line Eve Arden delivers, seemingly unknowing as a double entendere, acting as principal of Rydell High School in the musical film "Grease"  During announcements over the school P.A. System she invites everyone to the football game that night with the words," Remember, if you can't be an athlete, at least you can be an athletic supporter!"  (laughter)

Or the ever popular acceptance speech, "Thank you for your support!  I shall wear it always!"

Sally's sparkling ethusiasm was contageous.

Her open-hearted love for Dani and her willingness to do anything to support Dani in her academic career with no thought of any return except the love they share is admirable.  Her grandmother Delma did the same selfless service for her younger sister, working as Secretary to the Dean of Women at Utah State while Helen Marie earned her bachelors degree and found Zachary, her attorney, later bishop and judge husband and father of their nine children.

Snooty is the opposite of humility!
Though Sally took an associates degree in interior design, she was never "snooty" enough to fit in the craft.  She opted instead for work in the medical field where she is universally loved for her caring manner and the zany sense of humor she says she inherited from me.

"Snooty" is a quality shared by interior designers, executive chefs with an attitude and attorneys who spend most of their time convincing you that you need them.  Some call it pride, some arrogance, most call it annoying.  Sally has none of that.  Hooray!

As her caring father--with barely enough money at the time to pay the rent and buy a little food, I determined to spend a few hours every day calling around to find her an internship with a interior designer--any interior designer in town.   After a week or two devoted to this effort, I discovered two things:  

First - Interior Design houses had all the interns from the four year Universities that they could handle.  Junior College students were way too far down on the snooty totem pole.

Second - Interior Design would never fit my precious girl.  Woody Allen once said that he would never become a member of an organization that would accept him as a member. 

Instead she opted for one of the helping professions--and works as a trusted assistant to a group of opthamologists at a local clinic.

Deep in her heart,  Sally would rather be a veterinarian.  Trouble is (and she knows this all too well) Sally would take every critter under her care home for the rest of it's natural life!  Sally is 34.  She will likely never go back to school--and critters all around will be the worse for it.  

Intstead she concentrates on a couple of pug dogs.  She lavishes love on all within her grasp.  She's not snooty enough to do anything else.