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They Thought They Had Helped

I went into a sporting goods store looking for a walking stick. Unlike most guys, I’m not afraid to ask for help in a retail store. I approached the first clerk I saw and asked, “Do you have any walking sticks?”

“I don’t know. Let me ask someone …
She doesn’t know, either. If we did they would be in camping.”

Then the clerk walked away, thinking she had been incredibly helpful.

Fortunately for me, I had been in this store before and knew where the camping section was. Unfortunately for me, I was looking for a tall, skinny item, not thinking that walking sticks telescope down to almost nothing. A quick walk down the camping aisle proved fruitless, so I asked another clerk in the area about walking sticks.

“Did you see any in the camping aisle?”

“No.”

“Then we must be sold out. Sorry.”

Then the clerk walked away thinking he had been helpful.

Both clerks engaged with me. Both answered my questions. Both walked away thinking they had given me good customer service. I was about to walk out empty-handed, but on my return trip down the camping aisle, I happened to notice a small, skinny box down in the corner. Upon closer inspection, they had three different types of walking sticks in stock on their shelves, just not in the packaging I was expecting.

I got my walking stick, no help from the clerks who thought they were helping me.

I tell you this as a cautionary tale. If your staff training consists of teaching your staff to engage with customers and answer their questions, you are likely losing sales. The two clerks both did that for me, but neither solved my problem. If instead of answering questions, they were taught to solve my problem, the interaction would have been different.

“She doesn’t know either. If we had any, they would be in camping. Let me walk you over to camping and help you look.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me look it up on the computer and see what it says.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me ask the buyer for camping.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me call another store to see if they have any.”

Notice that neither of the clerks asked me any questions to clarify what I wanted or why I wanted it. Neither offered to walk over and look with me. Neither offered to take my name and call me when they got more walking sticks in. Neither suggested another store where I might find the item I needed. Neither offered to look in their system to see if they even sold walking sticks. Yet they both engaged with me and answered my questions. They walked away thinking they had helped.

Don’t assume your customers know what they are looking for. Don’t assume your customers know where to look. Don’t assume just because you answered a question, you’ve offered any level of service. It isn’t great customer service until the customer’s reason for coming in has been fully resolved.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We kept an Internet-wired computer up front because sometimes customers would ask for items by a different name than we knew or a different version of a product we carried. A quick search on Google showed us what the customer wanted and helped us either find it or offer an alternative solution.

PPS Every customer that walks through your door did so for a reason. Your staff’s job is to connect and engage with that customer well enough that they tell you their reason and ask for assistance. When you take on the mindset of solving their problems, resolving their issues, then you are on your way to great customer service.

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