Professional Jeweler Archive: Customer Lip Service

May 2000


Customer Lip Service

Sales associates can't give good service unless management makes it a top priority

Customer service is getting worse – or at least no better – according to three of four people in a recent survey. The blame usually lies with managers who don’t give workers adequate decision-making authority.

Common complaints include salespeople ignoring customers or judging them by appearance and being unable to get information.

Most chilling: The impact of poor service can be most profound on your best customers. Their expectations are highest, and are most likely to be dashed.

Managers who don’t empower employees to make decisions when dealing with customers are most prone to such problems, says Herb Cohen, CEO of Mohr Retail Learning Systems, Ridgewood, NJ. Stifling workers with strict policies – such as making them parrot “have a nice day” to every customer – won’t cut it.

“If you want to create a service environment, focus on employee attitudes,” Cohen told The Wall Street Journal.

Advocates for Shoppers

One example of this reorientation is Service Merchandise. Previously, shoppers entered the stores, picked up clipboards, checked off items they wanted and picked them off a conveyor belt. SM’s new stores are more traditional, reports Sales & Marketing Management magazine. Now a greeter welcomes shoppers as they enter the store. Customers pick merchandise off the shelves. If they have questions, they can ask workers, who previously fed the conveyor belt but now work on the sales floor. They’ve been instructed to stop what they’re doing if a customer needs help. Even cashiers have been retrained in how to “quickly process customers and get them out the door fast,” says Edythe Nash, SM’s president of human resource development.

How information is delivered is often more important than the content, says Mohr, and customers should feel that retail workers are their advocates. Surprisingly, he said, a nice “no” can actually be more effective than an indifferent “yes.”

“You want to make the consumer feel important,” said Mohr, “like if an airline can’t offer an aisle seat in an exit row, offer to put him on a waiting list instead of simply saying ‘no.’”

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications