Lose the "Retail-itude"

In a time when most customers are rare, and every dollar spent is precious, I am often floored at the potential for those whose responsibility it is to parlay respect to shoppers to disappoint.

I was privy to an anecdote of undeniable customer disservice today. Surprisingly, it was in a retail store that often hinges its reputation on its customer-centric philosophy. Sadly, what floored me was not what actually transpired, but that in times like these, and I do mean, economically so strained, that the management of any large chain of retail stores could be so inconsiderate as to leave a customer so angry they were left stomping their feet in dismay.

We’ve all been in the position of the customer and nearly all of us have found ourselves in the position to be able to “make it right” for someone in a customer service setting so I think that we can play this out while stepping into both sets of shoes.

In my world, there is no room for “retail-itude” when it comes to Managing. In this particular case, what came of it was a slew of sales people AND other customers listening and watching as the Manager mistreated a customer. The customer wanted to be recognized as a real person standing in a line waiting to check out. The Manager opened another register to do a “return”. The customer was waved over to her register which she promptly shut down just after processing the return. The customer had lost her place in the other line, and was S.O.L. (standing off line, though I know you know what I meant here!). The same customer had two small children with her and the whole mess was a meltdown in the making.

The Customer’s POV: She was frustrated at the long waiting time to begin with and was confused as to why she was waved over and then dismissed by the Store Manager.

The Store Manager’s POV: In the process of a return, she waved over other customers but then changed her mind. She was frustrated that a line had formed where there was none before and she decided that since the other line was moving again that they would just naturally shift back over to the regular register and she could go about her other work again. She was just helping out for a return and ultimately wasn’t responsible for checking customers out.

Neither one was necessarily in the wrong (though I would beg to differ on the point of the Store Manager being ultimately responsible for checking customers out), except the Store Manager gave the customer “retail-itude” by dismissing her both with a hand sign and verbally. An honest explanation as to why she couldn’t continue to run the register would probably have sufficed to calm the situation. But, instead, she gave the customer an attitude, the other sales staff watched and listened to her treat someone that way instilling in them that customer’s needs don’t matter.

The thought of the domino effect on the staff disturbed me though in some way it was the perfect explanation as to why certain stores have cultures that breed negativity amongst its staff.

“Retail-itude” breeds negativity and most certainly doesn’t instill loyalty in any customer, not the one who was left stomping her feet in frustration, nor in any of the 7 people in line watching the drama unfold. The only answer is to “just say no” and nip “retail-itude” in the bud. Positive management role modeling is the only way to breed a customer-centric culture and it’s a great investment in the longevity of your business.


Anonymous said...

What is remarkable, is that the situation could be solved in 2 minutes or less with someone with more retail management experience or general "people skills". If these are innate skills, which often they are not,then it is the responsiblity of the retail chain to include "customer service" education in the (hopefully) on going employee training.

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