The Other Side of the Counter…

In this day and age of people knowing people personally, through networking, social events and even social media you don’t know who knows who, so our customer service had better be top notch: no excuses, no pointing fingers, everything above board because you don’t know who that person knows or who knows that person. We tend to judge the person by their dress, body language, language or accents, and often the look on their face in a one to one situation. Believe me, we can be very wrong. We hear about these types of interactions in some of the Christmas songs but how long does the message last? Does it go beyond the holiday season?
Let’s start with basic customer service in retail businesses. Most interactions are one on one between the associate and the customer. On the whole the interactions are good to great however we have to keep in mind how to handle those that are not. Let’s create a few examples.

Our customer comes in to buy a new pair of shoes. While most of your customers are happily hunting for something new to wear this person is very short and even snappy. “Just bring me some that are what I asked for.” He does not seem to be at all happy about shopping for shoes. You go to your co-workers and whisper about how grouchy he is and does another associate want to take care of him. You get some of the styles he is looking for and go back to find tears in his eyes. Asking whether there is anything you can do to help he says: “No. My mother just passed and I am buying shoes for her funeral.” How does that make you feel about your first reaction to him? You did not know his story.

My son works for an establishment popular in the area. He brings home stories of some of his more difficult customer interactions. I advised him of this concept that he does not know what their day has been like and to be the one to make it better if he can. He took a fresh look at how he was approaching the customers keeping in mind that at the moment with that person he WAS the store. He has become very good with his customer service even in the busiest of times making him associate of the month recently.

This can also be a two way street. We as customers do not know what kind of day it has been for the associate on the other side of the counter. I did a short time once between jobs in a grocery store deli. It was a physical job and took its toll on my back being on my feet all shift. There were times it was hard to put a smile on my face. Then a customer would come up and greet me by name with a bright smile and a sense of humor. That much interaction made my day a lot better. Learn to look at name tags and use the associates name whenever you can when doing your shopping. They may not remember you yet they will remember the kind interaction.

This also applies to co-workers and people you may supervise. I was in a leadership position once when an employee with a great quality record suddenly started making mistakes. After a few weeks I was advised to let her go. Instead I asked her if something was going on that was distracting her. Her story was she was being worked up for possible heart disease and was really worried about what the outcome would be. Knowing that I cared her quality went back up and it turned out her issue was not heart disease at all.

It is almost habitual that when we have a bad day we have all the proper reasons for it yet when someone else is having a bad day we blame them for everything under the sun! We have to keep in mind with our interactions, be they social or customer service, that everyone has a story. Things can be going on in their lives that have an effect on their daily lives. You have a story and may have some bad days because of it. How do you want to be treated? I hope with kindness and patience and the honor that is due you just for being alive today. Treat everyone with respect and kindness and you will get a lot more of it back. When you are treated poorly send out compassion—you don’t know what their story is.

Coach Judi Harris
Visionary Catalyst
Cirrus Business Group

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