Lost art of customer service

(Note: photos included are not necessarily the items I was shopping for… just things that caught my eye this morning…)

Current dress-crush

I’ve been trying not to write this post, but it won’t go away.  Saturday, I had back to back, horrible retail experiences.  I won’t name the stores because I do frequent them, but one of them routinely leaves me steaming and I’ll vow not to shop there again until… I get drawn back in by one of the lines they carry.

I know I’m not alone in my impression; at least one of my friends simply won’t shop there anymore, because the sales staff just can’t be bothered to speak, and heaven forbid you ask for help… it really seems to make them grumpy. 

The other store caught me completely off-guard, because I’ve never had less than fabulous service there, but neither the owner nor the manager was in sight, and the young staff was chatting away.  I didn’t see the one item I’d gone in after, but my big loop through the store didn’t attract a “May I help you?” so I left.  Shame on them, because usually when I walk in, even if I can’t find precisely what I wanted, I don’t leave empty-handed.

Petite gal-friendly maxi?

Now, no one likes to be stalked by over-bearing sales staff, but a welcome greeting and an offer to help then or after I’ve obviously searched for something I can’t find is greatly appreciated. 

For the record?  I bought what I was looking for in store #1 online, and most likely will do the same with #2.  I’m all about supporting local small businesses, but golly, they have to do their part too.  No, there are no other stores in podunk that carry the items in question, just to set the record straight.

I have this silly notion that with the lagging economy, retailers should be on their best behavior, particularly in little boutiques.  Obviously, I’m not talking big box stores here, but heck, even WallyWorld has a greeter…

It doesn’t help any that at the grocery store nearest the woods, there is a man who is more than a bit fond of fire trucks and the Chief, so I’m greeted by name and handed a cart if he’s working.   Yes, I do like doing business with people I know; that’s part of why I came back to podunk instead of staying in Northern VA or DC, where the shopping is better and the restaurants stay open past 9pm.  (My biggest complaints about podunk, as the regular readers know…) 

Oh – and for the record?  I have NEVER had bad service in ANY of our local pet stores, independent or big box.  

So, talk to me about your customer service expectations and realities…

This entry was posted in Fashion.

15 comments on “Lost art of customer service

  1. Nancy says:

    This topic came up at lunch yesterday and again at knitting last night. It appears that customer service is lacking everywhere.

    When shopping, I expect:

    • acknowledgement, a smile or nod
    • employees not to carry on extended personal conversations with other employees or customers, if others are waiting to check out
    • to return an item without question if I have a receipt and the item has not been used
    • the customer service counter to actually have a person standing behind it

  2. I work at a Veterans Hospital and we HAVE to have training on this EVERY year and then if we don’t give it, the veteran will let those in charge know about it and it goes on our personnel record – after just a couple of those, we are counselled. Anyway, I do totally agree with you – I can go into a variety of stores and hardly ever see a clerk, much less talk to one.

  3. Nichole says:

    It’s really sad, isn’t it? Like you said, in this economy one would expect retailers to go a little extra… but nope, instead I routinely run into rudeness and a just don’t give a crap attitude. Sigh……
    I’m interested to know what stores are in question here……

  4. Karen says:

    I have had the same experience at local retailers too.
    Wonder if they are the same ones. At one business, I was never acknowledged that I was even in the store and neither was the only other sole shopper. No wonder there were only 2 shoppers in a very large boutique. Bad service is a deal breaker for me. I won’t go back. I will online shop it or do without.

  5. Amy says:

    I’m a big stickler for good customer service. If it is a small store and no on says ‘Hello’ (if they are not busy with someone else,) I usually don’t buy anything. A big box store, and its all in the check-out service. I have been known to go to Customer Service after to acknowledge good or bad service.

    And I’m with you on the pet stores … I always get good service here as well!

    Working in Health Care, I expect people to do their best to be polite and try when they work with the public. Its all in the first impression!

  6. Sue says:

    My biggest complaint is having to listen to employees, whether sales clerks or waitresses, complain about their jobs, bosses, co-workers or customers. I don’t want to hear it. If it’s that bad, find another job.

    When we met Rob was director of customer service for a large window and door manufacturer, so he expects good service and doesn’t hesitate to go to the manager to complain. I’m more of a letter writer and it’s really paid off because I have documentation.

  7. Marjie says:

    I guess I’m lucky that I rarely shop outside the compound! Actually, a lack of customer service is what keeps me away. And I’ve heard complainers like Sue mentioned. I’m not afraid to tell them that I’m not here to listen to their problems. And I’m also not afraid to tell them that if it’s that awful here, they should put their shoes on and walk out. I did tell a clerk in Sears who was griping to a coworker about his student loans and how awful it was to work in Tool World that he didn’t strike me as college material, and he should pull his pants up, turn his hat around, and get a real job that suits him, like digging ditches.

    Sometimes you just have to slap people upside the head verbally.

  8. AlisonHyde says:

    The (now former) owner of the yarn shop nearest my home: a friend of mine proudly took her daughter in to show the woman what the daughter had made with the yarn the friend had bought there.

    That owner looked at it and angrily dismissed the fraud she instantly assumed of them with, “No eight year old child knit THAT!”

    They left in tears, stunned. The comeback, of course, might have been No, YOU couldn’t knit that at that age, or YOUR children couldn’t, but MINE can. But of course they weren’t going to stay in that women’s presence to argue the point.

    At my favorite lys, by contrast, Purlescence, even the regular customers will speak up to offer to help a new person coming in the door: the owners are wonderful and we want to represent them well and for them to succeed in all things. We’re a community here, and the owners are people we badly want to see succeed on the longterm.

  9. Poor service follows me about like a bad penny…My youngest seems to assume it is ALL ME! Seriously? Just because he has adjusted to poor service and rudeness doesn’t mean I have to accept it as the new ‘norm’.

  10. StarSpry says:

    That is so unfortunate 😦 I agree that in the current economy, retailers should be more helpful, or at least available if you need them!

  11. Mary says:

    Based on the unofficial survey of your respondents it is clear that good service is a dying breed.Contrast that with my local box store whose elderly door greeting gentleman greets me with a poem and tells me how lovely I look. I’m not that fond of the store but I love this guy and I come back there to shop. Likewise, on Sunday, while out of town, I found a small town independent bookstore where I was not only greeted pleasantly, the owner opened the shop early to let me in (I didn’t realize I was early). She then proceeded to ask me what kinds of books I liked to read, provided story lines on a variety of books (clearly knew her stock), suggested writers I might like: well, you get the idea. Spent more than an hour there and I walked out with four books…full price, but worth every penny. They do online sales and will ship. I plan to try and support them even at a distance. THAT is customer service.

  12. Kathy says:

    Good customer service is sadly becoming a thing of the past. I must admit we’re a bit accustomed to good service in this neck of the woods. Mostly because the economy has been so bad for so long that most businesses know they better give good service or they’ll be closing the doors. One plus about living in a small town. That being said our local yarn shop is a bit snobby and there are quite a few knitters who refuse to make their yarn purchases at this store. She’s a city transplant so I’m going to assume she just doesn’t get country customer service.
    I won’t even discuss phone customer service.

  13. Jessica says:

    If i get bad customer service, i will stop shopping at a store. There is no excuse for bad manners, and when you work in retail, you GREET your customers. you say hello, and ask them if they need any help. it is so simple, really.
    Immediately upon graduating college, J and i moved to Germany, where i learned what proper customer service was all about, and how it should be. There, EVERYONE is greeted with a “guten tag” when they enter the store, and depending on the region, with a “tschuss” or “grus gott” upon exiting…it is just simple, polite and RIGHT to acknowledge people! my customary exit was always “danke, tschuss”. I still say hello and goodbye to shopkeepers, but here in the US, i am ignored quite a lot.
    When i am in a restaurant, i always thank the person filling my water glass, even if i am deep in conversation. it only takes one second to acknowledge another person, and let them know that you appreciate them.

    If a stores service really bothers me, and they have items i want to buy, i would definitely let the management/owners know about it.

  14. gMarie says:

    Wow! So many people experience horrible customer service. I expect someone to acknowledge me when I walk in and when they do that – I respond, because that’s also good manners.

    I always say please when I order something at a deli counter or ask if someone has more stock of something I need – Could I get 6 of these plates, please? it’s not hard. As Jessica does – I also thank the person refilling my water or coffee – every single time they refill it and when the person serving me asks if I want another whatever I please or no thank you. I have people chastise me for being “too polite”. Really, is there such a thing?


  15. Bubblesknits says:

    Oh yes. I agree completely. The job market is bad and customers have too many options to be treated with anything less than superior service. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be the way of thinking. /sigh/

    Glad you were able to find what you wanted online. Maybe you could send an email through the website to their customer service?

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