the scoop

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

Get updates delivered directly to your in-box

Monday, August 9, 2010

Customer Service: May I Help You?

I walk into a store, bedraggled and harried, anxious and exhausted.  Maybe I'm looking for retail therapy. Or a brief respite from a racing brain.  Maybe I want to absorb some decorating or gift ideas.  Or maybe I want to interact with someone who hasn't been up since 7 am, asking for food every five minutes.  I've probably already broken up several fights, fielded a crying jag, found a missing shoe, packed a car with kids and paraphernalia, and I have probably forgotten to eat.

I don't expect a Target associate to meet my eyes at the door and ask me how my day has been.  But small stores, on friendly town streets (ie: where I live), are more intimate.  It's not a paid senior citizen who says hello when I darken the door, it's the owner.  You, dear proprietor, are a port in my storm.

It's your move.  Your first few choices will affect my life-time loyalty or instant aversion to your establishment.  Say hello, nod in my direction, smile at my kid ... and you're on your way.  Ask if you can help me, make steady eye contact, and I will most likely return.

On the other hand, you can scowl at me.  You can ignore me, or even sigh a heavy sigh when you see me come through the door. I'm not fussily dressed, I have one or two children in tow.  I may not have showered this morning. But I probably DON'T have an oozing taco or frappa-something, my children are most likely not screaming or causing damage. And what you don't know is that when I choose to shop, I'm prepared to drop a decent amount of cash (just ask My Hero).

But even more important than calming my day? Word Of (my) Mouth.  Go the extra mile and I will sing your praises from the rooftops (ok, more like MOPS, Blogland and Facebook).  Buzz has got to produce greater returns for a business than color brochures.  Reward cards are nice, but remember my kid's name?  That's just good business sense.

There are two shining examples of this type of commitment to the customer in my hometown.  One is a shop specializing in kitchen wares, and the other, not surprisingly, is a toy store: Castle Toys & Games.

As my friend Kathleen noted, "It's impossible to be in a bad mood in this store."  Is it the brightly-colored kites hanging from the ceiling? The racks of puppets by the door?  The cheerful window display?  Yes.  But it's also the owner's attention and consideration, the staff's kindness (even when my son exits the bathroom naked from the waist down, leaves a cookie on the train table, or goes behind the counter to investigate the foot-pedal trash can).

Miss Karen will sit on the steps (which lead to the magical second floor) and read Z the Scuppers book ad nauseam.  Miss Amy will engage me in Bananagrams, and Miss Linda rewarded my son's potty training hurdle with a special gift.  

It's cliche, but going the extra mile means so much to me as a consumer.  Heck, just a fellow human being ... give me a smile and a warm hello.  It can't hurt, and it might really, really help - you AND me.