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Customer Service Isn’t Referring to Customers As Guests

Customer service. We’ve all heard the need for it. We’ve all tried to manage it. We’ve all felt a lack of it.

So should we put the words “customer service” out  to pasture? And along with that the Disney-eque way of referring to all customers as “guests?”

I think so…

Guests” come to tea and visit, like Downton Abbey.

Customers buy things from us.

If I say, “Be my guest at dinner,” that means I‘ll be buying your meal . You have zip responsibility to pay.

It is the customer’s job to pay the bill, it is ours to help them do that.

That takes pride in your job, performance at a high level and yes, hospitality. That takes being an active participant in the sales process.

But retailers have kept ignoring customers.

Dropped prices like some reality show contestant willing to do anything to win.

Under-appreciated what it took for customers to even come into our brick and mortar locations in the first place.

That’s because we’ve had a movement called customer service, which has made many authors, trainers, speakers, consultants, and department heads well paid.

But in the end, results have gone down.

Why is that?

Because many left the selling out of the service.

Back in the day, merchants wanted all of your business and actively controlled the sale by being on the floor, engaging customers, talking-up their best finds and giving the marching orders, “No one leaves here without buying something.”

That may seem pushy in 2013 but we have swung to the opposite end;  satisfied to use the words customer service and guest which have made many retail employees passive when it comes to the customer buying the merchandise.

Case in point, I called a specialty retailer looking for a $200 specific item one day. Response, “Let me check. Nope don’t got it.” Silence.

Someone else got the business that day by saying, “We can order it and you’ll have it tomorrow.” That’s not pushy, that’s selling.

Customer Service is not being left alone to browse, or being asked, “Debit or credit?,” or as we’re walking out the door, “Did you find everything OK?”

No wonder self-serve checkouts are becoming so popular.

Customer Service is not propping up your crew by saying, “Oh, it’s not your fault, it’s the economy, that’s why no one’s buying.”

When did you ever have a coach in sports give the team the loser’s limpExactly.

When I grew up in the sixties, you either won or lost a game.  Simple. For many retailers it seems customer service training is in many ways “Trophy Day” at the mall.

If we taught selling as the important part of customer interaction, we’d be able to train an exceptional interaction.

Why?

Because a sale is an act of completion. Customer service is an act.

In many cases customer service is an illusion brand managers tell themselves they passionately support. But in reality, to customers,  they don’t devote the time or money to train it.

I wrote the book on how to compete and it wasn’t through discounting or “customer service,” it was through selling.

Instead of complaining about the state of the economy in general and retail in particular, go out on your sales floor or visit a competitor and watch the folly of many “customer service” programs as employees text each other how bored they are.

If I can see it, why can’t you?

Count the number of times an employee actually walks up to and engages a customer. Then count the number of transactions.  Then count the number of times an employee rung up a sale and added one thing to that sale – I’ll bet that final number is zero.

Instead of looking to fancy technology and “best practices” of your competitors, why not see a low conversion rate is often the failure of developing a retail selling culture. Once we deliver that, we’re bound to create truly exceptional customer service

If we can do that, we can get back to the role of a merchant: to sell the merch, not just welcome customers as guests.

What say you? Please enter in comments below.




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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on February 22, 2013.

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