Friday, September 30, 2011

What if I have other plans?

Spare us the Autopilot!
At our house, Customer Service is the name of the Game!  

Ever since our Jeff was old enough to carry a nickel in his little jeans, I've stepped back at the counter and let him deal with the sales clerk.   Both he and his sister didn't want to talk directly to an adult at that tender age--but I gambled that the desire for the little toy or treat was strong enough to motivate them to ask for what they wanted.  Eventually they got used to it and learned how to talk to adults it as they grew older.  I believe that this single skill developed in ones so young turned them into great customer service practitioners by the time they were old enough to go to work in the world..

Dads can be a little mean sometimes to train up a child in the way he should grow--and when he is old he shall not depart from it.

Grampas often use a more kindly approach, but the means and the end are the same.

A Half-a-Wal tonight I needed help finding a gift we've been planning for our Sally's birthday dinner tomorrow night.   A bright young clerk said she'd go with me to help locate it.  What a luxury, to get that high quality of help.  It's standard Walmart training.  I love to visit with folks at stores and see where their commitment to great customer service comes from.

This is a good place to repeat the little story about, Bessie, the Atlanta Tea Room Great Gramma Waitress who summarized her reason for giving great Customer Service with the tender phrase: "Cuz I loves my peoples!"   When I worked at Mrs. Field's Cookie Company we traveled a bit to produce media at new stores to communicate within the company about the latest and greatest store designs.  

On one week long swing with the VP of Marketing and my direct Boss, the Senior Director of Training, we fell into a pattern of asking servers, bell boys, desk clerks and airline personel why they gave great customer service.   Bessie, in Atlanta gave the best answer I heard out of dozens of responses.  (We had planned to make a sequal to the training film, "Why do you give Great Customer Service?" but my involvement in that long term project ended when I prematurely terminated my services with the company to go onto other things)  

I've honed a sensitivity to great Customer Service ever since and I've picked up on a thing or two about  begruding contributions from folks who would really rather phone in  their weak brand of commitment to the job as greeter, cashier or grocery cart wrangler.

One little fire plug of a lady has grown accustomed to my teasing at our nearby store,  She sees me coming and starts her own brand of playful banter before I even arrive within the 20 foot perimeter.  Like so many minimum wage greeters, she has developed an "automatic pilot" tone to her entrance greeting ("Welcome to Walmart")  and her exit line, ("Have a good day!")

I tried something new with her tonight.  I got her attention with my own well thought out response, "What if I have other plans?"  It did catch her by surprise and she gulped air with wide eyes-- but nothing came.  Finally she gasped, "Well, you want to ruin your day!" and I gave her two imaginary points for thinking on her feet--something she doesn't do very often.

Earlier as we paid our bill, we got the thoughtless "Good Day Kiss Off a quick thinking casher came back with, "You can't have other plans!  For at least the next 30 seconds when you are out of my jurisdiction, I order you to REALLY have a good day!"

In the film the "Minority Report"  (spoiler alert) Tom Cruise acting in the future has two eye transplants so he won't be recognized by the cornea reading automotons in high security areas and classy department stores.   As we walks through a store the robot voice greets him with the identity of the former owner of his two new eyes and he gets a good idea where the transplated eyeballs came from, "Good afternoon, Mr. Yamaguchi! Welcome to Saks Fifth Avenue."

My point is simple.  Even though robots do the greeting donky labor in the future (if you buy into the film) we have quite a bit of robotic imitation, thoughtless greetings and good byes  that could be so much better with a little thought.

If more customer service employees "loved their peoples" the results for wishing every individual, every valuable company asset a sincere, connected greeting would make everyone involved feel so much better about themselves and the store.  

When Minne Pearl ended her show with the words, "Y'all come back now, y'hear! it rises above the cultural boiler plate that we get out of rote habit in our daily business from low paid, unimaginative sales helpers.

I went to an autoparts store with my now 30 something son and heard him smoothly greet the guy behind the counter by the first name printed on his shirt.  "Sam, I need your help." he said.

Think of how that woke old Sam up.  "Gee," he might have said in his head. " I don't know who this customer is, but he obviously knows me"--forgetting that this was a simple 'trick' perpetrated by a saavy customer.

The next words out of his mouth would likely be, "Well, hello!  Welcome back.  What can I do to help?" (and he would try to mean it!"

Tricks?  Techniques--yes, infused with meaning and made to sound sincere.  It's the "change up" game we all should play better.

Some play it better than others...and for the most part, they win with bigger sales, better commissions and a greater likelihood of promotion to management--where every right thinking person wants to be!

Roll on GGP* (Washington, D.C.'s renown Senate Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall, in the 40s and 50s,  loved to play any kind of board game with his family.  GGP are his initials for "Great Game Player.")

This "Have a Nice Day" on automatic pilot needs some pumping up.  Please, America, get out of the rut and change up the greeting.  Remember the difference between a rut and the grave are only dimensions.

Of course, I may have other plans!    


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