I’m a bit obsessed with retail customer service. Few things can make or break a shopping experience like the courtesy and care you receive from a store employee. I’m also fascinated by factors that keep the front-line retail employee motivated and engaged to continually provide excellent service. There’s a lot of good stuff out there on the topic (a Google search of “how to keep retail employees motivated” produces 19,600,000 results!), much of it complex, because, well, people are complex. Yet there’s a simple approach we can all employ that I have no doubt will produce overwhelmingly positive results across all retail establishments.
If we want great customer service, we need to start by being great customers.
The quickest, easiest thing we can all do to raise the collective quality of customer service in retail is to recognize great service immediately when we receive it. The person you praise one day will be shopping in your store the next. I'm not talking about an online survey to be filled out later, which is still important. I'm talking real-time, face-to-face, when commending a person matters most and can have the most impact.
Store employees tend to hear more bad than good. Having visited and observed thousands of retail pharmacies across the country throughout my career at FLAVORx, I know firsthand just how real that contrast is. Sure, pharmacies can have unique retail conditions, but with 65,000 of them across the country, employing thousands of people and so many of them heavily focused on service, it’s a great learning environment. Without a doubt, shoppers complain more than praise. That needs to change; which is why I’m making a vow to be a better customer in all retail shopping settings. Here’s how:
1) Say “Hi” and Smile– We all know most retail establishments require their store employees to greet customers either a certain way or a within a certain amount of time in the store. Often times these salutations are either straight-up ignored or met with an indiscernible grunt. How long will that associate’s friendly greeting last or how long until it’s just not genuine anymore? I smile at every store employee I meet, and respond to their greetings in kind. I also use the checkout line as an opportunity for friendly conversation. The point is to treat these helpful, enthusiastic people like people, not the plague.
2) Show Patience – Unless I’m in a legitimate hurry, I won’t put undue pressure on retail store staff to cater to my every beck and whim. I’ve found things get done much faster and with better results when you don’t act like you’re the center of the universe. And if I am in a hurry, I’ll politely make sure my associate knows this. As in any great relationship, communication is key.
3) Recognize – This is the most important aspect of being a great customer. When a retail associate does a good job, reward that hard work with a quick “Thank you so much for providing me with such quality service today. You’re doing a great job.” When you get the superior service, step it up a notch. I tend to take it over the top, but the point is to make an impression, right? “I want you to know the service you gave me today was just awesome. I loved my shopping experience here and that was due in no small part to the help you gave me. Thank you so much. I will definitely be back.”
We all want great customer service. Some of us because we rely on it for our livelihood (FLAVORx wouldn’t exist without the care and enthusiasm of thousands of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians), but for most of us it’s because we just enjoy shopping. If we all just took a few seconds to focus on being great customers, in all retail settings, the collective quality of customer service will certainly improve.
What do you think we can all do to be better customers? I’d love to hear your ideas.