How Bad Retail Customer Service In One Location Tanks Sales In All

retail customer service tipsLike a lot of people, I love Chipotle.

It’s tasty. It let’s me choose what I want. The food is all made fresh in front of you, and it’s fast.

Except at one location…

In the past several months when I went to get my fix, the lines moved at a snail’s pace. The employees were all chatting with each other, and placing my order was an interruption to them.

An order I always had to repeat, station after station.

Because of their distractedness, they threw away several perfectly good meals right in front of me. The workers seemed to think nothing of it.

They also didn’t seem to care about the dirty floor littered with cups, utensils, and food that had clearly been laying there for many minutes - if not hours.

I simply stopped going to Chipotle.

Then one day after leaving the Hound off at her kennel, I was starving.

With no other place to go, I stopped by the Chipotle by the airport. It was friendly, the line moved swiftly, and the employees were clearly focused on the customer.  

I told the shift lead how much I liked going to this location and why I was avoiding the other one. “We hear that a lot,” he replied.

Fast forward a month later when a buddy suggested we stop by Chipotle for lunch - the bad one. I gritted my teeth a bit, said yes, and before long we were in line.

The line moved quickly, the workers were brand new and friendly, the cashier quick, and the restaurant spot-clean. What a surprise!

Someone, somewhere had taken action...

Someone had listened to what the customers had been saying.

Why This Matters To You

Customers stop going to a brand entirely due to bad experiences at one.

I see how it happens, brand standards get compromised. That’s because many times, when you’re responsible for a team, you look past some of their shortcomings. You make excuses.

Is that you?

I’ve done it.

We all have. But here’s where it bites you…

We are known more for our compromises than for our successes.

I simply didn’t go back to Chipotle for months.


Because that manager or District Manager didn’t uphold their employees to the brand standards.

If you have multiple locations - or are considering expanding your locations - this is the hardest thing to deal with.  In one location, you can see and hear everything and take action to remedy it.

When you are responsible for more than one location, you have to trust the judgement of what someone else hears and sees. If they are untrained, uncaring or unwilling to make the hard choices, your brand suffers.

Another Moment... and in a single store

I received an email from a woman who said she doubted I remembered her. She had come up to me after a speech several years ago to ask what to do about a bad employee. I remembered her because I had told her she needed to fire the employee. She had resisted. Her email was to let me know I was right. “After I let her go, customers came out of the woodwork to tell me they had stopped shopping with me. Word of mouth had brought them back.”

I took no pride in being right.

3 Ways To Tell If Your Retail Customer Service Is Broken

Have multiples sources of information. While your managers are certainly important, regularly review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and even your own Facebook page for feedback. Mystery shops, when done right, give an unbiased opinion as well. From these moments in time, you get a fuller picture of what customers experience.

Look at your financials. Waste can be tracked in a computer; it’s called shrink. When shrink goes up, something is wrong. Every store manager and District Manager needs to look at all the numbers including the average number of transactions per hour, average number of items per sale, and average sale. When these numbers fall, it is a sign something isn’t going well. Use these financial indicators as validation or impetus to analyze what is happening in your store locations. These are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Long before a customer complains, these indicators will be screaming for attention.

Know what good service looks like.  You can’t hit the bull’s eye if you don’t have a target. Service standards for time to greet, for what to say, for when to say it, and for how to pass off the merchandise, all should be defined, or bad employees will compromise your brand.

In Sum

Customers are judging you. It’s up to you to proactively see that they have nothing to complain about - whether in one store or many.

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