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Friday, July 31, 2009

"I Hope We're Slow Today": Back to Basics on Customer Relations

This morning, my wife asked me to run an errand to get milk. I was already a little late for the office so wasn't thrilled to be doing this, but the kids need milk as part of a balanced breakfast, so I did it. I went to a nice convenience store near my house, where I normally have great (or at least mediocre) experiences in shopping. On this particular occasion, though, I went to the counter where 'my' cashier doesn't greet me, but instead remains engaged in the discussion with her colleague about the weather, which was cold and rainy. The next thing she says is, "I hope we're slow today." Although not exactly what she said, what I heard was "I hope we don't get many people like this guy in here today."

Maybe it was because I was running late and wasn't in the best of moods, but this really bothered me. Not only did it bother me, it offended me. It really irritates me as a customer not to be greeted and thanked, but I've learned to live with that. But to be told, even in an indirect way, that I was bothering the cashier by giving her company my business, was a little more than I expected. While I'm not prepared to take my last-minute milk purchases elsewhere, it negatively affected my view of the store.

I responded in EXACTLY the way we teach clients that customers will respond if they have a similar experience at the client's store. It pays to spend time with cashiers and everyone else who will represent your operation to the customer. A pleasant smile, a helpful attitude, and a thank you provide a positive impression immediately. We teach a lot of advanced marketing topics, but the basics form the foundation for lasting customer relationships. Don't let your business suffer because of an employee's misstep. Train them, evaluate them, and positively reinforce exemplary behavior. On the flip-side, correct problems immediately. Your customer might not let it slide. You've heard it before; It's much cheaper to retain customers than it is to recruit new ones!

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