Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Holiday Hires

November 20, 2013

My first job was in retail at TG&Y, a “five and dime” in my Midwestern home town. I still recall how nervous I felt inside when I helped my first customer.  I was not quite 16 years old so being nervous was natural.  But I was a teenager so would I admit I was nervous? Of course not!

Do you have a retail store?  Do you hire additional staff for the holidays?  How old are these new hires?  What sort of previous retail experience do they have? Most malls and mass merchants hire lots of young people for the holiday season and for many, this is their first job.

Retailers and the media refer to “Black Friday”, traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season officially starts.  I was stunned to find most front line retail workers don’t understand the significance of this phrase.

They thought it referred to the extended hours, going to work and getting off when it’s DARK.  Others thought it was just slang for how they all felt about this busy, crazy, exhausting day.  Only a couple of the most seasoned knew it actually refers to the day of the year when retail businesses typically move “into the black” – you know, profitability.

Be sure your team understands the significance of this hectic retail day and do your best to help them embrace and celebrate the madness.

Don’t assume they KNOW to wear comfortable shoes or even bring a second pair to give their feet a break.

Suggest your new hires bring extra beverages and even a sack lunch since breaks will be shorter and fewer.  Maybe even stock some granola bars and beverages in the back room for your staff.

If this is their first holiday season, it’s up to YOU to be sure they are prepared.

The customer service we deliver is directly related to how we feel. When we are tired, hungry and aching, our tone and attitude reflect it.   Have a frank conversation with your team about the demands of the first holiday weekend.  Give descriptive examples of a typical “Black Friday” and then share the comfort tips to help them be able to capitalize on this retail gift.

 

‘Till Death Do Us Part

February 9, 2011

I shredded my Macy’s/American Express card. This wasn’t an attempt to rein in our credit card spending or even to reduce  my number of credit cards.  It was my way of “divorcing” a partnership that doesn’t work.

In December, I was shopping for a dress for my mom to wear to a gala we were both attending.  Since we don’t live in the same city, I went to Macy’s, a store in common to both our locations in case an exchange or return was needed.

I found a great dress and opening a Macy’s credit card account offered significant savings so I did.  My purchase was charged to my new account and a few days later, my new Macy’s/American Express card arrived in the mail.

I had not realized when I signed up for the card that it was one of the partnership cards popular with retailers who do not elect to have their own credit service.  The Barnes & Noble card is a Mastercard.  It’s not only good at the store (Macy’s, Barnes & Noble etc.) but anywhere the partnership card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) is accepted as well.

My first statement came and I went on line to set up the on line bill pay.  The statement balance was set up to be paid a couple of days ahead of the due date.  The next statement arrived and did not reflect my payment.  In fact, it showed a “late charge” and “interest due”.  Pulling my copy of the on line confirmation I had received when making the payment, I called the 877  toll-free number for Customer Service.

After I explained the problem to the Customer Service representative at Macy’s, I was told – not once but repeatedly – that I had “entered the wrong account number” which is why my payment was not reflected on my statement.  No, I did not make a typo, the number printed on the card is in fact, NOT my Macy’s account number.  There is also NO behind the scenes tie between the number imprinted on the card and my store account to insure proper credit of payments.

The late charge and interest were immediately removed so why did I shred the card and close my account while still on the phone with Customer Service?

Two reasons; the first was being repeatedly told that this situation which caused me to have to waste 20 plus minutes on the phone was “my error” and second, the realization that the system in place would allow this problem to reoccur on a regular basis.

What would happen when I charged items both at Macy’s and other retailers in the same month?  What would that statement look like?  How would my payment get applied properly?  Would I have to make 2 payments, one with my Macy’s account number and another with the American Express number on it?  Typically I go on line and set up bill payments without the actual statement in front of me – where would I get the mysterious Macy’s account number if it’s not on the card in my wallet?

The “Customer Service” person could not answer any of these questions and admitted the failing of the system which did not marry the two numbers together internally.

Many businesses, large and small, see partnerships as a great way to offer additional services, benefits and conveniences to their customers.  You may be considering such a partnership for your business.  If so, be sure the fit is right – for you and your clients.  Like any good marriage, the outside world does not need to see what goes on behind closed doors but it’s critical that the partnership work and that it appear seamless to the customer.

Training New Hires – Part 2

November 22, 2010

The last couple of blog posts have focused on getting new hires, particularly holiday staff, “customer ready”.  Here are the last of the tips I have to help you be ready for the start of the holiday shopping season.

Often our teams fail us because we have not been clear in our expectations.  Our newest members may have little or no previous work experience so simply using phrases like “great customer service” may not have the same meaning to them that it has to our customers.

Helping customers is EVERYONE’s top priority. We give tasks to staff from preparing reports to stocking shelves. Each time you assign a task, be sure you start and end with the reminder that we are here to serve the customer, but in between customers please do this.

This simple statement and ongoing reminder will keep everyone focused on the customer rather than seeing customers as impediments to getting a task completed.

Lead by example but make sure everyone is watching and listening. As you train new team members, let them watch you. Be sure to they know that after each transaction, you will both ask questions and answer questions regarding what took place and how it was handled. Too often I’ve seen the new person tuned out and then later, when asked “Do you know why I did this or that?” they look bewildered and say “I wasn’t paying attention” or ” I was doing something else”.

If you see a customer with hands full, quietly suggest your new hire go offer to put something at the counter for them, start a fitting room or provide a shopping basket.

Once they do, be sure to remind them to always be on the lookout for those opportunities to make the experience with you a more positive one as they just did.

So often I’ve asked floor staff for a hand or a basket and more often than not, they tell me where to find a basket rather than getting me one.

Is that YOUR idea of great customer service? It’s not mine!

I’m not trying to imply new hires are stupid or inattentive. I believe everyone comes to work wanting to do a good job. However, even an experienced worker may not know your service standard. It is up to us to assume nothing and be very specific on how we want each of our customers treated.

Today’s consumers are very wary, frightened by the economic climate. They are looking for any excuse to hang onto their hard earned money – we have to work twice as hard to prove to them that spending with us is worthwhile.

Training New Hires – Part 1

November 19, 2010

In my previous blog, I talked about how you can help new hires be ready for the busy holiday season. Whether you are in retail or any other type of business, as your business grows, you will need to add staff. Often the positions we fill are entry level and the person we hire does not have a lot of work experience, it could even be their first job.

In every case, we have to train. We take the time to train the newbie on our computer systems and cover details right down to location of the restroom and break schedules.

Typically though, we neglect to train on the most important aspect of our business; our customers. Specifically, how to treat our customers.

Sure, you have likely used the phrase “great customer service” but those new to the work force simply DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS. Those with less life experience may not have ever had “5 Star Service” and therefore, don’t know how to offer it to others.

Don’t just tell your staff to greet customers, be specific. Tell them what to say in greeting a customer. We were aggressive advertisers so in my stores, sales people greeted customers by saying “Did you come in on our big sale today?” If the answer was yes, they could ask what they saw or heard in the ad that caught their eye starting the sales process. If the answer was no, they could say “Well then today is your lucky day. We have a great promotion going on and then proceed to give a brief overview.  Decide what works best for your business and teach it to all your team members.

The same is true for answering the phone. Prepare a simple script. Type it in a large font and keep it by every phone. The very first note on this cheat sheet should be SMILE. Talk to your team about how important it is to smile when they answer the phone. This simple act warms our tone and creates a better connection with the caller. You’d be shocked at how many people tasked with answering phones – often an entry level position – have never heard this.

As you can tell by the title, there is more to this topic than the couple of tips included here.  On Monday, I’ll post the rest so you’ll still have time to get everyone ramped up and ready to tackle “Black Friday”.

Holiday Hires

November 17, 2010

My first job was in retail at TG&Y, a “five and dime” in my Midwestern home town. I still recall how nervous I felt inside when I helped my first customer.  I was not quite 16 years old so being nervous was natural.  But I was a teenager so would I admit I was nervous? Of course not!

Do you have a retail store?  Do you hire additional staff for the holidays?  How old are these new hires?  What sort of previous retail experience do they have? Most malls and mass merchants hire lots of young people for the holiday season and for many, this is their first job.

Retailers and the media refer to “Black Friday”, traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season officially starts.  I was stunned to find most front line retail workers don’t understand the significance of this phrase.

They thought it referred to the extended hours, going to work and getting off when it’s DARK.  Others thought it was just slang for how they all felt about this busy, crazy, exhausting day.  Only a couple of the most seasoned knew it actually refers to the day of the year when retail businesses typically move “into the black” – you know, profitability.

Be sure your team understands the significance of this hectic retail day and do your best to help them embrace and celebrate the madness.

Don’t assume they KNOW to wear comfortable shoes or even bring a second pair to give their feet a break.

Suggest your new hires bring extra beverages and even a sack lunch since breaks will be shorter and fewer.  Maybe even stock some granola bars and beverages in the back room for your staff.

If this is their first holiday season, it’s up to YOU to be sure they are prepared.

The customer service we deliver is directly related to how we feel. When we are tired, hungry and aching, our tone and attitude reflect it.   Have a frank conversation with your team about the demands of the first holiday weekend.  Give descriptive examples of a typical “Black Friday” and then share the comfort tips to help them be able to capitalize on this retail gift.

In Friday’s blog, I’ll give tips for training your staff on customer service to further maximize the holiday season for your business.

The Recession is Over?

January 22, 2010

The recession is over!  What, it’s not?  Consumers are not back to their old spending habits?  Then someone needs to tell the staff in our area retail stores.  I had an open hour yesterday afternoon and thought I would do my part to stimulate the economy with some retail relaxation (aka: shopping).  I went to one of my favorite stores well-known among savvy women for smart styles and even smarter prices.

I was having a wonderful time, my arms laden with treasures I intended to try on and hopefully buy.  As my arms began to ache, I noticed a store employee putting new merchandise on the floor from a large rolling rack in the aisle.  Surely she would notice a customer buried in merchandise and offer to take things to the fitting room.  No such luck.  Even though she saw me, in fact passed so close to me I had to step back to avoid her colliding with me; she uttered not a word.

She made repeated trips from the supply bar to the display rack all around me.  Finally, I stopped her and asked if she could start a fitting room for me.  Her reply “I’m busy.  I’m supposed to do this” and she indicated the rack of new merchandise.  I couldn’t help myself, I said what would think every retail manager would be saying daily to every staff member “Well, if you made it easier for me to buy these things, I would make more space for you to put out the new.”


She simply looked shocked, by my comment or the concept, I couldn’t tell which.  I hung everything on the nearest open spot I could find and left.  Tasks are important, but not more important than making a sale.

The message to every business owner, manager, supervisor, team leader and floor person; the recession is bad enough already – don’t make it worse by forgetting your priority is always the customer.


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