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The Slice

Posts tagged: customer service

“I want to talk to whoever is in charge”

Every now and then, one is presented with an opportunity to provide excellent customer service.

Even if there is a temptation to just say, “Well, he's in Russia right now.”

Reality check

So I got to thinking that my previous post crept perilously close to “Everything was better in the good old days” territory.

And while I think you could make a case that the retail shopping experience isn't what it used to be, it would be nuts to suggest that every store employee was a ball o' fire back in the day.

One of my wife's first jobs was at a department store. And she remembers witnessing something over and over that made her shake her head.

An experienced clerk talking to a customer on the phone would say that the store was out of some item of apparel or whatever. Then the clerk would offer to check with the chain's other stores in the metro area.

After putting the customer on hold, the clerk would then visit for a minute or so with another clerk about the weather, the problem with men or whatever.

Then she would get back on the phone and tell the customer that everyone seemed to be out of the item in question.

Shopping in 2013

So a Spokane woman went to a local store, looking to buy a small household appliance.

She found an empty display box with all the necessary info. She presented the box to a clerk.

The clerk, a reasonably cheerful young woman, started talking into the com system attached to her blouse. You know the kind I'm talking about. You used to see them in movies. A Secret Service agent would cock his head downward and say “Eagle is on the move.”

A little time went by and another clerk emerged with the wrong item. After a brief discussion, the second clerk disappeared.

A little while later, the original clerk heard from the second clerk over the com system.

She turned to the shopper. “I think we might be out,” she said.

The shopper politely informed her that she had checked online before coming to the store and learned that were three in stock.

This prompted more discussion over the com system.

Eventually the second clerk emerged again, this time with the correct item.

The shopper made the purchase. But if she hadn't had a better grasp of the store's inventory than the clerks, that could not have happened.

Is that nuts or what?

Maybe what we need are fewer fancy headsets and clip-on microphones and more people who actually know what they are doing.

But I guess stores would have to pay those people something, and that might not fit the current business model.

When the personal touch falls short

Noticed yesterday that, printed just below the date and time, a grocery store receipt said “HELLO, MY NAME IS LANE #1”.

I don't recall who the checker was, but I suspect he or she was too old to have been given that name by his or her parents.

A customer service move that matters

Perhaps you have noticed grocery checkers with no one in their lanes stepping out and actively looking for shoppers who might be ready to be rung up.

It has quickly become so standard that it has to be a management directive.

But here's the thing. Unlike many behaviors that start with a memo, this actually improves the shopping experience.

So, to whoever came up with this…Thanks. 

Amazing moment in customer service

Shirley Schoenleber saw a recent Slice headline referring to new-car smell.

It reminded her of a story.

“In 1973, I purchased a brand new Ford Pinto from a local dealer.”

For reasons she can no longer recall, she arranged to have it driven to her home.

But here's the thing.

The young man who drove Schoenleber's new car to her place smoked a cigarette en route. Can you imagine?

“Even stubbed the butt out in my new car!”

It was the first and last cigarette smoked in her little car while she owned it.

This date in Slice history (1996)

Today's Slice question: What did someone at a local business do for you that instantly made you vow to become a customer for life?

This date in Slice history (1996)

To find out what kind of service customers are getting: Everyone ought to phone his or her own place of business every once in a while and ask a few simple questions.

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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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