Salesmanship: Customer service vs. company policy

Home Columns Salesmanship: Customer service vs. company policy

by Warren Tyler

Now more than ever, customer service is what differentiates your store from your competition, especially the big boxes. Unfortunately the boxes have received a lift from the economy despite their well-deserved reputation of lack of knowledge, shoddy installs, mis-orders and mis-measures. The 90% of Americans still working have money, in fact more than ever, because the savings rate has increased and consumers have held off buying. However, they are leery about spending too much for their purchases.

For all their problems with installed products, boxes still have the perception of lower prices. The good news is consumers will comparison shop and if your service isn’t perceived to be a hundred times better, they will buy the low-priced offerings.

Do your people get out of their seats and offer a warm, friendly greeting? Do they have the human skills to start and engage in a conversation that has nothing to do with flooring? Do they have the self esteem never to talk about themselves and show sincere interest in their customer’s conversation? If they don’t, you lose. Watch people who enter your store and by their actions try to judge whether they believe they have entered a special place or just another flooring store. The atmosphere should be approaching “magical.” Many readers at this point may have no idea what I’m talking about. If you are among them, you have a lot to learn about service.

As a regular reader of “LizBizzBuzz,” a blog by Lis Calandrino, I always come upon things of interest. This week it was about trying to order a sausage, pepper and onion sub without the sausage. The clerk informed her that she had to take the sausage with the sandwich. No amount of reasoning could convince this person it was to her benefit to keep the sausage, especially since the owner had made Lis the sandwich she requested on previous occasions. The owner was just as ignorant as he hired this person and must have had a company policy. I learned long ago if you have a company policy, you can’t have customer service.

Along the same line, I ordered five sandwiches for my children at an upscale sandwich and wine shop in Gloucester, Va., and asked them to make a couple of side orders for me which were clearly marked at $2 each with no restrictions. The clerk informed me she couldn’t serve sides without ordering a sandwich. Obviously, I walked out of the shop leaving the five sandwiches unpaid for.

At a men’s boutique in Portland, Maine, I walked to the counter to pay for some clothing and asked the clerk for a restroom. “Oh,” she said. “They aren’t for public use.” If I’m not good enough to use the restroom, I’m certainly not good enough to make this purchase. I left the $1,500 worth of clothing on the counter. I pray no one in this industry is so stupid as to do this. I will not do business with any business that won’t let customers use the facility.

There is a restaurant in my town where the owner parks his truck in front of the door. Because he shows no concern for his customers I refuse to eat there. Arriving at a store to do some training, smack dab in the middle of the entrance was a canopy for a car with a sign; “Reserved for Mr. X.” What arrogance, what pomposity and a perfect example of “Don’t expect service in this store.”

Real customer service is understanding that each customer is a unique individual requiring unique and special treatment. You can’t serve if you have a company policy.

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