Hello shoppers...

We've all been on bad dates. 

The woman you met for coffee who had horrible onion and cigarette breath. The man who, over dinner, wouldn't stop talking about his hernia operation.  There's the guy who never looked you in the eye, the girl who never smiled, and a hundred other stories, bad, badder and nightmarish, that we've laughingly shared with others. 

Yet regardless of the infraction, daters can be as picky as they want to be - they don't have to tolerate behavior from others that they find unacceptable because, as the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. (I sincerely hope you've caught the one you're happy with and who is happy with you!)

Just like daters, shoppers have nearly unlimited choices when it comes to who we "date" i.e. where we spend our hard-earned money - the internet has seen to it. And just like those that share their bad dating experiences with others, shoppers who have bad customer service experiences tend to tell their stories - to friends, family and, worse, on the internet, which is basically like telling everyone.  

Which is why a bad retail "date" can have such a detrimental impact on a business - not only is the shopper unlikely to ask for a second date (return to the store) but there's also the chance that, depending on how bad the date was, the shopper is going to share their experience with other shoppers. The impact is devastating - lost business plus bad word of mouth plus a bad economy can equal doom for a business owner. (Sprint is a glaring example of a national company whose consistently poor customer service rating eventually led to the closing of hundreds of its locations) 

In my next post I'll share the worst customer service experiences I've had and also those I've heard about from others (there are some doozies) plus give you a chance to share your own. For the purposes of this post I want to focus on three of the most common retail dating mistakes and the impact they have on shoppers.


1. Denying a shopper's reality.

You've experienced this - you enter a store and employees don't greet you, even though they see you come in, or you take your items to the check-out counter and the person behind it says nothing to you, even though they're two feet from you. Or you end up watching employees talk to each other instead of to you, or to someone on the phone while they ring up your items. Regardless of the offense, when store staff ignore shoppers and fail to acknowledge them as human beings, shoppers feel undervalued, unimportant and unloved - and will shop elsewhere. That's why I teach employees in training to use an "Activation Greeting" - all customers are greeted within 10 seconds with eye contact, a smile and a "Welcome to (name of store)!" Customers in the store come before callers on the phone. And cell phones are turned off and put away during business hours.


2. Something smells bad

This can be anything from rancid food in a restaurant or grocery store, to the smell of food where it doesn't belong (employees eating lunch within nose-shot) to an employee's bad breath or body odor, to the smell of mold, rotting plaster or water damage in a store. Whatever it is, bad or unexpected smells equal an immediate turn-off by shoppers, which is why I train employees about the importance of a clean store and a clean body - basic fundamentals of retail but sometimes surprisingly ignored by employees and business owners alike. In fact the research connecting what we smell to how it makes us feel is so overwhelming that there's even a product line called "Retail Scents" that creates customized odors for specific retail settings, each scientifically designed to enhance the shopper's experience.


3. Employees who talk about themselves - or about their employers

You've been waited on or rung up by the employee who blathers on about what they're doing after they get off work, or how much they drank over the weekend, or how their boss is cheap and won't hire enough counter help which is why it took them so long to wait on you. There's also the employee who makes personal comments about a shopper's purchase. "I tried that frozen pizza and I didn't like it - but maybe you will." Ugh.

When we shop, we shop in what I call our "I." That is, we are in our world and it is about us - " me me me," the most selfish part of who we are. When an employee talks about themself, they're pulling us out of our "I" and into theirs - which takes us away from the reason we shop in the first place. In training I tell employees that they must learn to stay in their "R," which I describe as the most selfless, giving, nurturing part of us, the part that is about taking care of others - basically the opposite of being in our "I." This is what shoppers want, so give it to them, because that's your job, it's what you're paid to do.

Smell good, dress nice, acknowledge us and be kind to us - that's all we ask for as shoppers, as we search for love in the retail dating world. Is that so hard?


Jonnie Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," which airs Saturday mornings 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at jonniewright@thebuyosphere.com.

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