Doing the Robot Dance - Why Customers Stop Talking to Retail Employees

Robot dance customer service

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Has this ever happened to you? You walk into a store you haven’t been in before because you saw something online, saw a nice window display, or were just curious?

Like spotting a friendly face in a crowded room, you went in with your heart open to what awaited.

When you moved through the door, no one noticed you. Not in a stalker at a bar kind of way, but just a simple glance, a head nod, or even a friendly “Hello.”

As you moved through the store, your energy level began to wane; like a spurned lover, you became aware of the time you spent without the other person's notice.

Then something amazing happens…

A retail employee comes over, and your heart picks up a bit. "Maybe they do notice me", your subconscious rejoices. Nope, you hear, “How are you today?” You politely respond, “Fine,” and the robot dance is on.

“Finding everything all right?” they might ask. And you find yourself shut down into scripted replies like, “Yes, I’m just looking.” At this point, they robotically say, “If you need anything, just let me know.”

Then you finish the robot dance with, “Thank you.”

Is it any wonder merchandise sits on the shelf?

Oh, and you can substitute just about any doctor's office, receptionist, hotel clerk, government service - you name it - they are all just as guilty. But I have to ask you as a consumer ...

Aren’t you tired of the act-like-you-give-a-damn-about-the-person-in-front-of-you-and-repeat-the-same-senseless-script-every-single-time dance?

I’m sure if you were to ask them or their owner, those employees would say they were being “polite” and "not pushy.” In reality, they are as rude as a guy sneezing into his hands and offering to shake yours.


Because they do not demonstrate that they value the person before them!

I’ve been known to reply to the robot dance question, “Let me know if I can help you find something,” with “A million dollars in tens and twenties.” Some will laugh, snap out of the robot dance, and laugh and share.

Some will guffaw and say nothing.

Still, others will have no response. That’s because they are dead inside.

  • Dead from too much rejection from customers
  • Dead from too much rejection from family
  • Dead from too much rejection of themselves

Here's the thing: retailers...

You can’t have energy vampires on your sales floor!

As customers, we don’t want to endure the robot dance. We want sun sources to meet us as we step through the door.

Is that so hard?


Stop the robot dance

So many retailers are looking for a quick fix to attract more store customers. They firmly believe they have great customer service.

But they don't...

Is it any wonder their managers scratch their heads trying to devise something to "motivate" these robots?

  • Contests?
  • Bonuses?
  • Commissions?
  • Team building?

They know they must do something, but they keep missing the target like a bad archer. They have to give the skills for how to make each interaction special. Not just scripted, for that can lead to a lack of customer engagement.

Tinker with employees' engagement skills based on something like my Five Parts to a Successful Sale, and you'll break down the robot encounters.

It is not the employee's job to "figure it out" as it is a monkey-see-monkey-do world.

Only when we stop the robot dance can we truly serve a customer by becoming more human. Until that happens, enjoy the piles of merchandise on your floor – they aren't going anywhere fast.