Well, here we are again — Black Friday — the official start of the Christmas shopping season. But, unfortunately, Christmas shopping is no longer the joyful and relaxing experience it once was.
How can you be joyful and relaxed when a teenaged sales clerk, with an earring in his nose and a tattoo on his forehead, acts as though you’re bothering him when you ask a question? The last time I was at Best Buy, I asked four different kids to please find me a certain type of USB cord. The standard response was, “It’s six aisles down.”
When a fifth kid told me the same thing, I said to him, “Don’t tell me where it is. I want you to find it for me.” Perplexed, he shrugged his shoulders and mumbled for me to follow him.
After quickly perusing the cords on display, he proudly announced that Best Buy doesn’t carry the USB cord I was looking for. And with that, he departed for another kibitzing session with his fellow Best Buy buddies.
Persistent, I looked carefully through the USB cords on display and — Voila! — sure enough, I found the exact one I needed. I could have rubbed it in by interrupting the all-important jam session two aisles over and showing the cord to the kid who said they didn’t carry it, but I resisted the temptation. Bright fellow that I am, I assumed he would have little interest in hearing about my success.
The sad reality is that this “the customer is a nuisance” attitude is now widespread among retailers. Which is why, as the decades have passed, my enthusiasm for Christmas shopping has approached zero. It’s simply no fun when you have to beg retail employees to help you.
Every company has a certain mind-set toward its customers, and in the new millennium the mind-set of all too many businesses is: “This is our policy. Take it or leave it.” Speaking for myself, unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise, I almost always opt to leave it. And if you’re in business for yourself, you would do well to assume that your customers — and potential customers — will choose to do the same.
Having said all this, as I prepare to venture out into the Christmas shopping season, I’ve come up with a plan to help get me through it. I’ve decided to make it an educational experience by using it as an opportunity to study the personality of every store I visit.
By personality, I’m talking about the company’s attitude toward its most important asset — its customers. You may want to try it yourself. By paying close attention, I think you’ll be surprised by what you can learn about both the right and wrong ways to handle customers.
I am convinced that the mind-set that wins the hearts and minds of both old and new customers over the long term is: “This is our normal policy, but we’ll do whatever is necessary to find a way to work around it so we can satisfy your needs. Satisfying you is our number-one priority.”
It’s amazing to me that so many companies still don’t get it. They simply don’t understand that customer satisfaction should be their number-one priority. Which means that the field is wide open for anyone who does understand it — and acts accordingly.
That said, if you’re venturing out to shop today, best of luck. And please do tell all the kids at Best Buy that I’m thinking (and writing) about them.