The Customer and the Lipstick: what are customer-facing staff saying to customers and clients?

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The only time I ever stole anything I was 11 years old. A group of us girls pledged to do the very naughty thing we knew we weren’t supposed to do and steal one item from the local pharmacy. To this day I remember sidling up to the lipstick counter, putting my right arm behind me, looking around to make sure no one would notice my dastardly deed, then grabbing whatever my hand landed on – a $2.98 lipstick.

Once the deed was done and we were outside, we compared our bounty.  The other newly-minted thieves seemed quite proud of themselves. They were now, after all, officially Bad Girls. Me? I felt so guilty that when I got my first babysitting money years later I ran into the store and left three crumpled one-dollar bills on the counter and ran out.

I never even wore the lipstick. I’ve never even liked lipstick! Hated the feel of it on my lips – like a sheet of rubber. Ewwww. So I never wanted to wear it. My friends thought I was crazy. It was a sign of maturity, after all. Grown-up women wore lipstick, and of course we all wanted to be grownups. Even my mother got into the act when I was 16 going to proms and parties, telling me I wasn’t ‘finished’ without it.

THE ONE

Over the decades, I’ve amassed hundreds – drawers full – of once-used lipsticks, always seeking the ONE I could tolerate. But no matter the price, the brand, the color, they all felt like rubber.

And then I found it. THE ONE perfect lipstick: perfect color, stayed on forever no matter what I ate, was light and didn’t feel like leather. Perfect. Finally, a finished face my mother would love.

But for the last month it’s not been available. Nowhere, no how. Online. Every store. Nope. I was frantic. What if they were going to remove this from their line? I finally got accustomed to having a finished face!

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER

Yesterday, walking downtown Portland, I decided to go into a Target and give it a try. And there it was!!!! OMG. Such happiness! HAPPY!!!! I brought the three they had and went to the cash register. Here was the conversation:

SD: I’M SO HAPPY I FOUND THESE I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO FIND THEM ANYWHERE I’M SO HAPPY!

CLERK: I’m so glad we had what you needed. Let me do a price check and see if I can make you even happier.

SD: But I’m already REALLY happy! So happy!

CLERK: And I can make you REALLY REALLY happy because I can save you $2.00 on each! So glad you could make ME really happy today!

I must admit the frustrated month I spent trying to find the lipstick was worth it just for this exchange. And it brought up some questions. Why didn’t other cashiers in other stores take this extra initiative? Did Target know she was saying that?

I’ve never had that experience in other Targets. Was it just this woman who took this initiative? With just me or with everyone? Was she trained to do that? Why aren’t all customer-facing folks trained to do this sort of thing? Do employers even know what their employees are saying to clients and customers? It leads me to wonder:

  • How many of our customer-facing staff want to make customers really REALLY happy?
  • How many of our customer-facing staff are ready and willing to go out of their way to truly serve a customer when their job isn’t dependent on it and no one will know if they do or not?
  • Do we really know what our client-facing, customer-facing employees are saying to our clients and customers?

Indeed. Are the employees serving clients? Or getting caught up in their own personalities and might not be serving the company? Are we losing business and actually harming people because some sellers or customer service reps are being less than helpful?

THE LOBOTOMY CAUGHT ON TAPE

Most managers have no idea what their employees say. After being hired, folks are generally trusted to say the right thing, to represent the company professionally. But do they?

During the course of my Buying Facilitation® training I have learners tape conversations and send them to me. Some have been pretty shocking. I played one particularly inexplicable one to a client as a seller went on (and on and on) about how she needed a lobotomy, how it would certainly improve her memory and probably make her a nicer person. She was selling phone services! The manager’s response was chilling: “My God, I have no idea what my sellers are saying to clients.”

So how, exactly, are your sellers, your customer service reps, the help desk folks, the cashiers, your admin, speaking to your customers? What are they saying? And how will you know?

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