Customer Service Isn't Referring to Retail Customers As Guests

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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.

And yet it rarely happens...

Should we put the words "customer service" out to pasture? And along with that, the Disney-esque way of referring to all customers as guests?

I think so...

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

Customers buy things from us.

If I say, "Be my guest at dinner," I'll buy your meal.

You, as my guest, have zero responsibility to pay.

In retail, 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 contestants willing to do anything to win.

Undervalued 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 then, merchants wanted all of your business and actively controlled the sale by being on the retail sales floor, engaging customers, talking up their best finds, and giving the marching orders, "No one leaves here without buying something."

That may seem pushy now, but we have swung to the opposite end, satisfied to use the word guest, which has made many retail employees passive regarding 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 popular.

CS is not propping up your crew by saying, "Oh, it's not your fault; it's because of the economy; that's why no one's buying."

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


Because a sale is a completion, customer service is an action.

Customer service is often 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, which wasn't through discounting. 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 CS programs as employees text each other how bored they are.

If I can see it, so can you.

See also, Retail Training: How To Effectively Develop The Best Sales Skills

In Sum

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

Instead of looking to new 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 CS.

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


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