I was recently checking out at a large retail store and was taken by surprise at the low level of energy and enthusiasm I encountered by the employee ringing up my hand soap and toilet paper. She never made eye contact and when I said “Good morning” she replied “Not for me”. Suddenly, it was no longer great for me either! Obviously she had missed the training course on Customer Service and it was not my place to give her a free tutorial. Fortunately, I took a few steps past the checkout lane to buy a hot vanilla latte, only to be greeted by a young woman who gave me a friendly “Hello” and some light and lively remarks about the weather or something else I don’t remember anymore. What I do remember was her cheery smile and happy greeting. This quick experience – from bad, “I don’t want to come back here again” to good, “Okay, I like it again” – gave me the incentive to do a blog on Customer Service Etiquette:
- Greet the customer with a smile. Two separate tasks here but both equally important. Saying “hello” with a warm smile lets the customer know you are not bothered by their multiple cans of starch and dishwashing liquid. Besides the obvious, you are instantly much cuter and more approachable.
- No need for long-winded conversation. A few pleasantries are always nice but it’s not appropriate to talk about how much you hate waking up early to get to work or how your tires are thread bare and the company won’t give you any time off to get them fixed. Oh yes, both of these shared with me this past week.
- Paper or plastic? You may be partial to paper but if the customer says “plastic,” it’s not your job to let them know how they are single-handedly ruining the Earth as we know it today. And, in the event there are not organic eggs in their basket, refrain from mentioning the dangers of hormone injected chickens.
- Keep your eyes in forward motion. If the customer gets to the end of the transaction and forgets ice and stamps, do whatever you can to not roll your eyes at the customer. Leave that gesture to the person standing behind the customer holding everyone else up!
- Do you need help with that one tiny bag? Don’t make the customer feel uncomfortable for asking for carry out assistance. You never know if they have a health issue that prohibits them from carrying even a slightly heavy bag.
- Do not carry on private conversations with fellow employees in the vicinity of customers. It is not okay to hear about your roommate’s bad habits or your date from last night.
- Take pride in your appearance. Most companies have required uniforms but you can go the extra mile and make sure you are dressed to impress. Getting familiar with your iron and washing machine are a couple of good habits that will serve you well in life. Don’t forget to pay attention to the care of your shoes.
- Get off your cell phone. Most companies do not allow cell phones on the floor and there is a good reason. Never keep your customer waiting because you are in mid-text or are finishing up an important conversation with your sister’s best friends neighbor.
- Keep your management issues to yourself. Avoid venting about your coworkers or your boss to customers. If you have an employee problem, seek direction from a supervisor or your human resource department.
- Smile! Even if you are having the worst day of your life, a smile will go a long way to make your customer feel appreciated for their business and more willing to return for another shopping visit.
- Maintain your cool. If you encounter an angry customer, make every attempt to handle the situation with poise and patience. Avoid taking on the tone of the unhappy customer. If they are belligerent, call your supervisor for backup and keep the line moving.
- Don’t forget to say thank you. It’s always nice to hear someone send you on your way on a positive note.
Make your goal for next week to exemplify excellent customer service–I guarantee it will make your work and your customers’ shopping experience more enjoyable.