Back in the day, my dad owned and operated a gas station that had a small grocery store in the back. It was the prototype for today’s Sheetz stores. My sister and I would go to work with him and hang out in the back with my grandma. While at work we learned to dust shelves, arrange merchandise to make it easy for customers to access, and when we got old enough, wait on customers at the register next to the big candy display case. People would come into the store to shop while my dad put a tiger in their tank, cleaned their windshield, checked their oil, and counted out their S&H Green Stamps-the predecessor for today’s rewards card. People got top-notch customer service when they stopped at that station, but I’ve come to realize that not everyone went to work with dad and grandma and learned how to provide quality customer service. In fact, it seems that many people don’t even know what customer service is, let alone how to provide it.
Case in point, my friend was having a Kentucky Derby party and I was told to wear a fancy hat. Since I didn’t own such a hat I had to stop at Dollar General and pick one up. As I was pulling out my payment, the lady checking me out-and I mean at the register-reached over and snipped off the tag. “What did you go and do that for?” I asked. “Now I can’t return it,” I thought. She didn’t care, she threw the incorrect change into my hand and moved on to the next customer. “What happened to counting my change back to me like my grandma taught me?” I thought. “If you had done that, you would have caught your own mistake. And, in over 50 years, no clerk has ever taken upon him or herself to cut the tag off my merchandise. Why did you start now-with this fancy hat?”
My next ‘less-than-top-notch’ customer service experience involved an argument at the front counter, and I wasn’t the one doing the arguing. The manager was telling an employee-the one who was supposed to be greeting customers-about how dirty the bathrooms were and that she needed to clean them. It was like watching a tennis match as they went back and forth and back and forth without even acknowledging the four customers standing right in front of them. When customers ran over the little ding-ding line at my dad’s gas station, that meant get up off your ass, put a smile on your face, and get ready-a customer is here. Perhaps store and restaurants need a little ding-ding line to tell them when someone is approaching so they too can get ready to pay attention to the paying customer.
My last case is the best-and I don’t mean the best customer service. Sometimes you can just tell the service is going to suck by the look on the ‘I don’t care about you but this is the only job I could get’ employee’s face. The RBF is a dead giveaway. On arrival we exchanged cordial hellos and even a “How are you doing?” I gave the standard “fine” response, but the employee didn’t. He included everything from who didn’t show to up to work that day, to how busy he had been, and ended with, “So just kill me.” “Are you serious? Did you just say that to me; one of your customers?” I thought. “How do I even respond to that? Do I say, ‘Okay, do you wanna go out back so nobody sees?’ Or, do I just pretend you didn’t say that and move on?” Either way, that’s hard to come back from.
So I think I can fix all of this with just a few customer service tips for all those who didn’t work with dad and grandma at a little gas station with a grocery store in the back. Keep your scissors in your pocket or give them to the guy who works next door and is having a bad day, count back the change to the penny so there are no mistakes, don’t play tennis in front of customers, and when asked how are you doing, just nod your head, force a smile, and say, “Okay.” They really don’t care-they are being polite so just go with it. It’s not about you, it’s about the customer.