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


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