Yesterday I took my daughter on an errands run, which included shopping for a few things for myself. We went to a particular store where I have shopped any number of times; I’m going to keep the store’s name out of this because I don’t want to tar it, for reasons that will soon become clear.
My daughter and I went into the store, wandered down some aisles of accessories, then drifted over to the main selling floor. We waited in vain to be acknowledged by the staff. No one was rude to us, but we might as well not have been there. As I told the owner of the store in an e-mail to him — it’s a local outfit and I have some friends who know him slightly, so it was easy enough to find his contact info online — I don’t make a habit of flagging down clerks. I’ve been a clerk and always figured it was my job to find the customer instead of the other way around. (By the way, can we all agree to resurrect the honorable title of “clerk”? There’s nothing wrong with it.) Minutes passed, but no service seemed to be forthcoming for us. There were a few other customers in the store, but the place was nothing like packed. There were plenty of staff around, but they kept not looking in our direction, not smiling at us, not giving us a nod, not noticing that I had a particular product in my hand and a look in my eye that said I could use some help.
We gave up and went to the store next door, which had some of the same things I needed. The clerks there were eager to help, despite far more customers in the store. I spent near $200 that would have gone to the first store had any of its clerks so much as given a nod in my direction.
I wrote the owner last night around midnight. When I first checked my e-mail today, around 9 a.m, he had already written me back. He thanked me for my feedback. He apologized for the bad experience. He told me that this particular kind of inattention drives him crazy (his words) and that he’s been stressing this to his staff. Then he told me that he would keep looking to hire staff members who naturally seek out customers. He said he hoped I would come back and do business with them again.
All I can say is that I’m delighted with this response. He didn’t duck my charges, didn’t lay blame, didn’t make excuses, didn’t get snide. In short, he didn’t do any of the many things that set our teeth on edge when we encounter them from a company’s customer service representatives — whether clerks, store owners, call-center operators, ticket agents, or maitre d’s.
Good merchants seek out the right kinds of clerks, then teach them the business if necessary. People who know everything about a product are useless as clerks if they don’t have the natural customer awareness that the store owner talked about.
I’m glad this one merchant has figured that out. And even though my experience in his store yesterday was negative, I’m sure I’ll give him more chances to earn my business.