I don't know if it's because I've worked for numerous companies where customer service is key (FedEx UK and The Disney Company anyone?) or if it's that I treat customers as I would like to be treated if I was parting with cash. Whatever it it, all I know is I hate it and I refuse to be treated badly by people who are paid to be helpful and polite to me.
Firstly, let me say that I'm not under any pretense that I am some sort of royalty and should be treated as such. I know I'm nothing special and I'm not saying at all that I should be given more attention than any of my fellow customers. What I AM saying is that these days, when money is as tight as it is, staff need to work hard for their wage and prove to customers that whatever they are buying is worth the money they are spending.
This applies to shops, restaurants, salons, mobile phone companies and even my university to a certain extent.
Don't get me wrong, I am not 'tight' with money. I love spending money (just check out my Fall Haul video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dTbp0uQL6s if you don't believe me!) But when money is hard to come by for everyone, not to mention that I'm living a student lifestyle whilst trying to keep worries about the doom of my impending university debt at bay, it's not outrageous that I want to make sure that every penny is going towards something totally deserving.
That's why I feel like companies need to work harder to train staff to reassure us with their demeanor that we won't regret this spend and that it is completely worth it.
Think of it this way: Shops are still selling the same products as before, but with an inflated price in an economy where there is quite simply less money. They need to offer better deals, chase us with our best interests at heart, and just generally work hard to make you sure that we didn't make a mistake in choosing their store to shop in. What can they offer to seal the deal and show the consumer that they are doing the right thing? They need to make the entire transaction from beginning to end a positive experience, and one great place to start is by training the staff to treat the customer with interest and respect.
Whenever the following steps are completed, I am a happy customer;
1) Make sure your staff have a comprehensive grasp of at least basic social skills and good manners. During a trip to WHSmith recently, the shop assistant who was sat at the check-out was so much of a moron that I began to wonder if she actually suffered some sort of terrible debilitating social disability. I soon realized that she didn't when she was mouthing off to 'Maureen' about how she hates it when customers don't put items back in the right places. She didn't look me in the eye, didn't ask if I wanted a bag to put my purchases in (I'm hardly going to carry three magazines and two notepads in my clutch now, am I???) and merely grunted at me 'Twelve fifty.' I'm sure what she meant to say was, 'That will be twelve pounds fifty then please. Would you like a bag?'
I don't think it's too much to ask for staff to be polite, present positive body language and be professional whilst they are at work. For example, the extreme sharing of personal anecdotes at work offer nothing to the customer except for boredom. Why do I care that you're having to get the bus home from work at the end of your shift because your stupid 'partner' filled the car with diesel instead of petrol? Don't bore me with your life. If I was interested, I'd ask.
2) Employers should make sure that the staff to customer ratio is right. If I see only two people working at the pub when the bar is rammed with a crowd three-deep I immediately pity the staff and begin to marvel at the manager's stupidity. Human nature results in you being surrounded with subconscious concern and irritation which doesn't exactly provide a good start to what was supposed to be a carefree night of 'Drinks with the Girls', does it?
Furthermore, it's a nightmare if the few members of staff working don't actually know how to operate the technology they're required to use. At Topshop recently, I wanted to make a very simple exchange of one top to a smaller size. And yet, after ten minutes of waiting at the till looking around for someone to help me, the sales assistant that finally loped over with a face like I'd come and kicked her new kitten didn't know how to 'put it through'. She then looked at me as if expecting me to say, 'Oh alright then, I'll keep it, sorry for the inconvenience!' When she realized I wasn't going anywhere, out of laziness she 'radioed' her colleague who was only stood about five meters away. This colleague, or 'Kelly' as she was called, then demonstrated that her reluctance to help anyone far outweighed the assistant at the till by describing how to do the transaction in the dullest and least informative way possible. Eventually she skulked over and slowly made a palaver of the exchange whilst sighing and tutting. Of course I should probably feel sorry for them as they obviously struggle with that terrible condition; bone idleness.
3) Give the customer at least what they expect. Let me set the scene, I am about to buy a pair of wedges in Miss Selfridge for £75. This is a big spend for me, the most I've spent on shoes to date in fact, so I'm excited and a little nervous, but looking forward to owning such a luxurious item. The only pair they have in my size are the display pair, but I don't mind as they seem to be in good condition, so I take them to the till. The disinterested sales assistant drops them into a plastic bag which she slides across the counter and asks for my £75. I'm gobsmacked.
"Erm, excuse me, could I have a box for them please?"
"We don't have a box for them."
*Insert confused face*
"How were they delivered to the store then?"
"They were in a box but we threw it away."
"That's odd... Why would you do that?"
"The boxes were cluttering up our stockroom."
This is the bit where I started to get angry.
"What... can I just get this straight, you just chucked £75 worth of shoes into a plastic bag because you can't give me a box, and you can't give me a box because of the state of your stockroom???"
"Why should I give one what your stockroom looks like? If I'm spending this much money on a pair of shoes, the very least I should expect is a box to carry them around in to prevent them from getting damaged. Is that an unfair or surprising request???"
"I'll go and find you a box."
Yes, you do that.
4) Presentation is vital. That goes for the staff as well as the shop floor. I don't want to seem my waiter's graying boxers, or my bank assistants black bra through her white shirt. Similarly, I don't really feel comfortable looking at my shop assistants lipstick-teeth or her pussing zit that she forgot to cover up that morning. By the same token, why would I was to eat in a restaurant if I know that I wouldn't make a pig urinate in their disgusting toilets? My table is sticky, I don't want to drink in this pub because if they are so unclean out-front where the customers are, can you imagine the state of the pot-wash room??? Is there a way I can try on a new pair of jeans without removing my shoes? There must be a way because there is no chance under the sun that I'm putting my bare feet on the dusty floor in your rancid dressing room. No-one has an excuse for being unhygienic. Surely part of what the staff are paid for is maintaining a clean working environment, (it's been part of every single job description I'VE ever received so it must be) so why aren't they doing it?
5) Go the extra mile! Usually if I'm spending my money in a shop, it is because I trust the brand and have certain expectations of how I will be treated there. I have chosen the brand because it has something extra which others don't have, it makes me feel special and the whole experience of purchasing there is a pleasure. I'm not only spending my money on the product but the entire experience, so I want it to be good. This means that pleasant helpful staff need to be involved; asking how I'm getting on when I'm in the dressing room, offering to order in an out-of-stock item especially for me and telling me I look gorgeous when I'm trying the item on. Approaching me when I'm looking at an item and recommending a similar item I might be interested in also, advising me on what would go well with the thing I have in my hand when I'm still looking around and asking if I found everything OK when I reach the till. Volunteering to show me how to apply a foundation I'm looking at, offering a free sample or telling me about an upcoming sale. Informing me about other services offered, recommending a favorite dessert or helping me to find a birthday present for my sister. These are all examples of how shop assistants themselves can help make me sure that my money is being well spent allowing them to be paid a fair wage.
As a consumer, I really don't think it's too much to ask for the staff to actually EARN their wage by following the above tips. And it's definitely not to much to ask the same of the managers, supervisors and bosses to ensure that these tips are adhered to. It's not hard.
Have any of you guys been experiencing any bad customer service recently? Where and why? Do you complain if a member of staff is rude to you? Do you send food back if it is cold or unappetizing (as I've done quite often this summer... International House of Pancakes and Pizza Hut are the main culprits)? You really should. In this day and age, we can't afford to waste a single penny on something that isn't entirely worth it. And remember, the customer is always right!