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On Service

What with the holiday season here and the need to shop before the “day of madness” (December 24), I’ve been spending more time in stores. As a result, customer service has been on my mind and I have been gauging my service experiences, either good, bad, or indifferent. In a tough economy, logic would dictate that retail establishments wish to distinguish themselves in any way they can and many have done so with the service levels exhibited by their employees. After all, as Walt Disney once said “ Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

That’s why last Saturday, I was stunned at a department store known for its high customer service levels. On that particular day, I approached the cashier with my items, had them rung up, paid for them, had them bagged and received not one “hello”, not one “thank you”, not one “come back and see us again”. Nothing. No acknowledgement. Complete indifference. Not that I seek Chatty Cathy sales clerks, but generally most individuals have come to expect a hello and at least a thank you. I remember hesitating as I left the store. Should I mention this to a manager or was I making too much of it?

The Ritz Carlton is known for a very high level of service excellence. If you’ve ever stayed at one of their hotels, you understand. Training is crucial and critical to their business model and of course, it shows! But it begins even before the training. According to Jerry Osteryoung in his article “The Ritz Carton Experience”, the Ritz recognizes that the heart of customer service is hiring the best individuals and keeping them with the company. And the company strives to have their associates anticipate what the customer will want! The excellent customer service experience begins with anticipation. It continues with an employee’s pride in what they do – being representatives of that company – being the company. Ritz Carlton associates provide impressions to customers and those impressions result in whether a customer returns for future business. For other companies, the heart of providing excellent service is something quite simple: Common sense.  Common sense means that a company associate should recognize how he or she would want to be treated in the same scenario. And frankly, in this instance, the associate likely was not the right person for the job. The store should consider their role as well.

One: Did they pick the best individual to fill the role?

Two: Did they properly train the associate in the basic service levels?

Three: Did they bother to monitor the associate’s performance to ensure acceptable service standards? Remember, that which isn’t measured can’t be changed… 

More on service on next week’s blog. Got to go shopping now! 

© Alder & Associates – Marketing & Advertising & Public Relations

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