Saturday, December 25, 2010

Customer Service

Chillicothe, Missouri, seems to have kept its Piggly Wiggly. I looked for it as I drove through yesterday. I never shop there, but I can’t help but stare as I drive by, because the store name is so fun to say.

Now they have a Walmart. Why? Maybe people prefer one-stop shopping, or perhaps because they believe the “lowest price” hype (which is sometimes true.) The residents know that Walmart will erode the value of their town, but the lure is so irresistible.

So why do people still shop at Piggly Wiggly?

Perhaps they are skilled at the human connection.

Does your business sell primarily face-to-face to people in your area? Your business might be the next one to be driven to disaster by global competition. So why not be proactive now, and start treating your customers in a polite way?

A lot of small rural businesses actually do treat their customers well. But I am appalled by some of the horrific service I’ve experienced recently.

These are some of the philosophies that seem to be running through the minds of shop owners and their employees.

“I have too many customers, and I want to retire soon and close my business without selling it.”

“I want my customers to realize that I’m busy and work hard, so I need to complain when they make a request.”

If your employees are mistreating employees, either you have not trained them correctly, or you are treating them well (remember what Steven Covey used to advise: treat you employees the way you would treat your most important customers, because they will be the ones interacting with your customers.)

Here are some examples of things I’ve experienced in the past week:

A health food store in Burlington, Iowa…

“We don’t take Amex!” (Then flinging the card back at me, even though they display the American Express logo on the shop door.)

…and how it might be improved

 “I’m sorry, we don’t currently have a merchant agreement with American Express. Do you possibly have another card?”

A McDonalds in western Kansas…
“I don’t know.”

…and how it might be improved
“Let me find someone who does know the directions to the interstate.”

Seem like common sense, hardly worth reading about on a blog? They why is it so uncommon in real life?  For certain, being rude doesn’t take less energy than being helpful and polite. If you need to make a statement about how busy and overworked you are, don’t use a customer as your punching bag. 

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