I’m far from a personal stickler for customer service, but as a content writer for a marketing agency, I’m well aware of the damage a really negative experience can do to a well-established brand. Every impression counts when it comes to a good business reputation – and a recent shopping experience served as a great reminder of just that.
I needed some fabric cut at a local department store (not a store I visit often, but one that frequently had some good deals). I didn’t see any sales associates at the cutting counter, so I rang the service bell and waited…and waited. After some time, an associate passed by from a different department. She asked if I needed help. I said I did, and she apologized – she couldn’t help me herself, as it turned out, but she’d send someone else right over.
To keep it short, fifteen minutes and two other associates later, no one had yet appeared who could actually cut my fabric. I finally left the bolt on the counter, along with a civil note about their lack of service.
The experience didn’t end there, though. One of the other items in my cart triggered an error message at the checkout. The cashier tried again, several times, before she scurried into a back office to search for a code listing (ordinarily kept at the register), leaving me standing at the checkout reading tabloid headlines. She finally reappeared with the list and tried to enter the code manually – but that still caused an error. By then, it was getting late, and after waiting for almost 45 minutes all told, I was getting cranky. I gave up, and walked out of the store without anything I’d gone in there to purchase.
Encounters like this are always personally frustrating for the customer – and that means they can be disastrous from a marketing standpoint. I’d never had any problems at this store before, but after that experience, I am hesitant to go back. Even thick-skinned shoppers like me will only tolerate so much poor customer service before they take their business elsewhere.
Outstanding customer service, on the other hand, helps prevent problems like these, and proactively ensures that every encounter with your brand is a good one. So what would constitute a good customer service solution to the kind of situation I experienced?
- Empowering employees to make decisions and fix customer problems on their own. It may not have been their department, but if any one of those three associates passing by the cutting counter had simply known which buttons to punch on the price scanner (or been authorized to look it up), they wouldn’t have had to waste time physically searching for someone else to do it.
- Cross-training staff to function as a skilled, unified team. If associates are absent, where have they gone? When are they expected to return? Most importantly, who is responsible for backing up their respective departments until they do return?
- Having a back-up plan to sell, when robots go on strike. I understand that the associate attempting to scan my item wasn’t trying to make my experience any more frustrating than it already had been. When scanners don’t want to work, though, and a particular item code is not in the system, there should be a way to find the price and record the sale, instead of losing it altogether.
Clients may not rave about a great experience with your brand, but they’ll definitely complain about one that’s less than agreeable (like this blog post!). Like it or not, first impressions count – and what’s more, they’ll stick with the observer even though every encounter afterwards may be completely different.