There Are No Second Chances In Retail - Just Ask Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium
Today a very smart man on Facebook sent me a very smart question which reflects a sentiment shared by a lot of very smart people - and since I have a t-shirt in my drawer that says "SENTIMENT CRUSHER," I guess I have to write this.
Ya wear the t-shirt, ya gotta fulfill the directive.
"How can you tell if a business has bad customer service or if YOU just had a bad customer service experience? Isn't it difficult to make broad assumptions on the reputation of a local business based on one person's experience on one particular day?"
Here's the Unsecret Shopper's answer:
Shoppers don't differentiate between employees and companies. They don't know the difference, see the difference, feel the difference, or care, because they don't have to - which is why they don't give second chances.
Employees and the companies they work for, are the same, in the eyes of you and me, the shopper.
If I work for Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium, and I wait on you as you enter the store, then I am now Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium, in your eyes - even though I bear no resemblance to a lamp, an emporium or your Uncle. You, as a consumer, are not separating me from the company I work for - especially not when "Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium" is stuck on my shirt, and we're standing inside his building, and my checks say, "Paid from the vault of Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium." It's especially true in retail, and no more true than for people whose job it is to greet, engage, etc.
The employees on the front lines - call center operators, restaurant hosts and servers, sales reps, greeters, customer service employees, cashiers - are all ambassadors for the companies whose uniforms they wear and whose checks they cash, which means they hold sway over how customers are going to feel about those companies.
If I'm good to you as an employee, then you'll see the company as good. If I'm bad to you, then you'll see the company as bad - period.
That's why an employee having a bad day or being in a bad mood, can bring a business to its knees.
If I'm an employee of Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium and I just had an argument with my wife on the phone or had to declare personal bankruptcy that morning or am fat-ey-gued and surly from staying up til 4am playing parcheesi and I am carrying those negative emotions with me during my workday and you, unsuspecting customer, enter the store and are unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of the garbage I'm carrying around inside me, then it's safe to assume that I've now taken my garbage, handed it to you and said, "Hey, my arms are tired, could ya carry this around for me for awhile? Thanks!" Tht's called transference. (which I wrote about yesterday - click here to read.)
What's worse, the fact that you are now in a bad mood means so is the entire staff and owner of Uncle Ralph's Lamp Emporium, as well as all the other companies that do business with that company. It's like I just gave everyone the Black Plague. Every person in the chain is dependant on the other. Money flows from the consumers forward. Happy consumer spends more in the store, unhappy consumer spends elsewhere.
One employee engaging in bad customer service can have an impact that's like crashing a Moon-sized meteorite into the Pacific ocean 5 million years ago - and we all know how detrimental that was for several dinosaurs, who just didn't make it.
Just like several companies - okay, lots of 'em - can't overcome bad customer service - even on one day, from one meteorite of an employee.
Think I'm drinking Drano? Let's use the most recent example in Des Moines - the incident at Legends Restaurant.
Maybe the server was having a bad day. Maybe the manager was having a bad day. Maybe Mark Rogers was having a bad day. Maybe the teacher who complained was having a bad day. Maybe I was having a bad day because, frankly, it was windy and I'd just gotten my hair done at it looked atrocious.
All those excuses - bad day, bad moment, bad hair - didn't amount to a hill of salad. The customer didn't stop and say to herself, "Ya know - maybe it's me." Emotions don't have reason - that's why they're called "emotions" and not...well, "reason."
In other words, there are no second chances - not from consumers, not any more.
20 years ago? Maybe. 40 years ago? Almost certainly. But today? Anything we want to buy is available from 10, 20, 100, 500 places - and places where we can complain about those 500 places, are available in 5,000 places.
I often use the analogy that retail shopping is like personal dating. (Read "Bad Retail Dates" by clicking here.)
Think about it - you meet someone for a first date, they show up wearing wrinkly dirty clothes, or smelling like burnt rubber, or they say something stupid or rude or offensive (Sound like any dates you've been on????) Does it really matter to you what kind of day they're having?
What are the odds you'll give them a second chance? Not very good - because there are plenty of fish in the sea.
And plenty of stores to shop at - or not at all.
Wright is a customer service evaluator and trainer, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," Saturday mornings 8-9am on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.