Back to the basics for customer service


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EdimarIs it really poor customer service or do we as consumers expect too much? Do people really boycott businesses and restaurants the first time we feel we are treated poorly? When I first graduated from college, and of course I was poor, I purchased what to me was a very expensive white shirt with navy blue trim from Macy’s. I didn’t wear it for a while because it was way beyond my budget at the time, and so I waited for a special occasion to dress up and show it off. I followed the directions to launder the garment, and the navy blue piping bled onto the white part of my beautiful blouse. Unfortunately, Macy’s customer service was rude and even argued with me telling me that the store never carried the brand, and I could not have purchased it from their store.

I didn’t have the receipt, and never did return to Macy’s for years after that and had no recourse at the time; there was no Twitter and no Facebook either. I’m not even sure if the late 1980?s put much effort into employee training and the consequences for rudeness, lack of training, or chewing gum in my face as the customer service representative told me I was not receiving a new blouse or a refund.

I would like to think in the ensuing 25 years that customer service has evolved into an appreciation of the customer and her business. We surely write about it enough, but I am convinced we learn about tomorrow by what is happening today as a result of what we did yesterday. Customer service may have evolved into a much more sophisticated science, but still shouldn’t my experience never have happened?

And so now in 2011 let us return to the core elements:

  • When I walk into a store, someone should greet me, smile, and engage me in a short conversation. I don’t want to feel obligated to stand there and chat, but someone thanking me for my patronage would make me feel important.
  • I want an employee to ask me if I need help and point me in the right direction. I don’t want anyone to hover over me unless I ask for that particular kind of assistance.
  • I want to speak with a kind person who I see is genuine and not someone who is doing their job just for the paycheck.
  • If there is a waiting line at checkout, I want the cashier to smile and be kind; never yell out “NEXT.”
  • If I’m purchasing something heavy in weight, I appreciate someone helping me load it into my car.
  • I appreciated the bank manager opening the door for me the other day. (I broke my wrist two weeks ago.)
  • I want a customer service representative to believe me when I bring in faulty merchandise and act courteously, promptly, and ethically when I have a complaint.

I’m looking forward to a great year of customer service.

photo credit: NeoGaboX

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Cheryl Hanna
Service Untitled
Cheryl Hanna is a successful real estate sales person in Florida and has used her customer service knowledge and experience to set her apart and gain a competitive edge in a very difficult market. Cheryl has been writing professionally since 1999 and writes for several blogs and online publications


  1. Great stuff. Small things make a huge difference in customer service. Thanks for pointing out some great ones!

  2. This is such a welcome article since it completely expresses my feelings about customer service and how customers should be treated. Unfortunately, we are so often not treated in the ways Cheryl describes and it does lead to dissatisfaction since receiving poor customer service can lead to a bad relationship with the shop. I, personally, just experienced the “NEXT!” situation at a national retailer when I was returning a pair of defective pantyhose…it made me feel as though I was being a bother especially since the returns clerk didn’t look like she was in the mood to help.

  3. I agree with all of the items here–good thoughts. My only input is regarding the last item: “I want a customer service representative to believe me when I bring in faulty merchandise and act courteously, promptly, and ethically when I have a complaint”.
    Often times the cashier/customer service member/etc. is trained by their company policy to be extra careful when accepting returns/exchanges. Coming from a retail background, there is a HUGE amount of fraud when it comes to returns. So, while I certainly agree that the associate needs to maintain a level of professionalism, courtesy and friendliness when handling returns/exchanges, I also believe that the customer should realize that the company needs to follow certain procedures (filling out forms, not just accepting returns ‘carte blanche’, etc.) when processing returns. Returns cut directly into the company’s bottom line, and their ability to offer lower pricing. That being said, people should not be treated as theives, but if I had a dollar for every customer that didn’t want to follow my company’s procedures for returns (wanting cash back with no receipt, “I’ve been shopping here for 50 years”, “Do you know who I am?”, etc.), well, you get the picture.

  4. None of this happens if you can’t communicate and it is getting increasing difficult to even get someone working in retail who speaks English. The other day, I was overcharged by $40 on a membership at a major retailer (warehouse type). For the lady working their membership desk, English was obviously her second language. After 15 minutes, she still didn’t have a clue as to what I was even talking about. She could smile, say hello, and take a photo and my money, but beyond that she was totally helpless. The points above are great, but they are WAY beyond most businesses when they will not even hire help which speaks the language.

  5. Yesterday I went to donate blood at our local blood bank.. Which I have not done in years. And almost walked out before they took me to the room to contribute my blood. When I walked in the door I was not greeted but directed to sign in. Okay no worries, then told to take a seat. Okay now I feel that I am at the ungratful doctors office (that we still have to pay for even if they are wrong on the diagnosios). I stayed but was quite reluctant. Are we an inconvience to them…when it is us that secure customer service folks their job..???….

  6. I do agree, Charyl, that the customer service seems to be not all that it can be. Like you, I get annoyed when it is bad. I think, that there are two main reasons for that. One, is that the retailers are more interested in acquiring new customers than retaining old ones. And they throw discounts at them hoping that lower prices will attract dissatisfied bargain shoppers anyway.

    Second, is the consumers themselves. I have many friends in retail business and the stories I hear are horryfing – from demans for a personal parking spot to returns that have been worn and spoiled beyond repair. The whole culture of shopping is changing and it looks like it will get worse before it gets better.

  7. Thanks for a great article. Great customer services only happens when you keep working at it. Often times a smile adds a personal and human interaction to an otherwise routine transaction. In our franchised winemaking shops, we find that great customer service is paramount to building a rapport with repeat customers.

  8. Great article and comments but also something that everyone in customer service should always have known. In today’s more cost conscious world, customer service can be the difference between a sale and a walk-away.

  9. In this climate of recession customers simply have a lot of options, its not just stores but online business, portals and professionals like realtors.

    Its important that your customer always feels valued no matter what the ticket value is.

    My staff is trained to never argue, granted that this causes us some amount of loses but we retain our clients long term which is a sure fire way of beating the unstable economy!


  10. I had a similar experience with Macy’s! I bought a pair of Bass shoes and they never fit right. The salesman had told me that these shoes stretch, so I should get a narrower size. He was wrong! I only wore them about three times during a years time and each time my feet were killing me after wearing them.

    I took the shoes back to the store and there was no wear on the bottom or anywhere on the shoes. They told me that it had been to long and that their was nothing that they could do. In the paper the next day, I noticed an ad by Bass that they were celebrating their 25 anniversary complete with their phone number. I called them and told them my situation. They were very friendly and offered to replace my miss-sized shoes and paid the freight both ways.

    I am a satisfied Bass customer, who will shop at any store but Macy’s first. Macy’s missed a golden opportunity and seemed not to care. I wonder how much they spend on advertising each year?

  11. Mr. Schmeltzle makes a very good point: “Great customer service only happens when you keep working at it.” This is a mindset that only the best salespeople incorporate into their daily routine. Too many times I’ve heard or read about retailers coming out with yet another corporate program pushing their version of customer service. More often than not it becomes only rhetoric that very few along the chain really believe in or understand. It’s a little funny how the best merchants live and breathe Mr. Schmeltzle’s mantra. Great article.

  12. My wife and I stopped in Best Buy in Hickory,My wife purchased a X Box@ $299.00.We wanted a TV also,The salesmen were to distracted w.a Bluetooth stuck in their ear and was not very helpful.(I guess this bluetooth ia a Best Buy thing.I had same expierence in Winston Salem.

    We stopped in at HH Gregg (Hickory),1.We were greeted by a salesman and manager.2.Salesman made us the most important concern.3He was helpful offered extended service protection.4He knew the products.5.We bought a $700.00 TV.,And we will go back to other HH Gregg stores.

    Lesson: People buy people,make a good first impression=Sales

    Best Buy take the Bluetooth out of your ears an pay attention to your customer.
    Mike Spath
    Owner Carolina Wood Fence Co.Inc

  13. It is a sad state of affairs when simply providing reasonable service as Cheryl requests is news. I guess hoping for “outstanding” service is too much to strive for these days. That’s a big opportunity for a company committed to excelling.

    On another note, isn’t that an odd choice for a picture of the shirt? (girl – get some pants!)

  14. When was the last time you heard some one at check out say thank you? Here you go, have a nice day, don’t forget about our survey is not a thank you. I compliment any one who thanks me at check out. Thank you makes me want to come back. I make sure I thank any one who buys from me!!!!

  15. Thank you for writing this! I experienced surprisingly poor customer service yesterday at one of my favorite wineries while on vacation and copied/pasted your tips. Hopefully it will help them to improve their future interactions with their customers.


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