The Yin & The Yang of Customer Service

On Saturday, like so many others, I spent the day taking care of family & household business. I spent time with my kids, did a bunch of stuff around the house … and went to the grocery store.

My local grocery store is like any other small-town market. It’s neighborhoody, teeming with moms, dads, and kids begging for candy and cookies that they’re not likely to get. Nothing out of the ordinary. After zig-zagging my way through the store, I made my way to the checkout stand, where a young woman by the name of Sarah** awaited the contents of my cart.

**I assume that’s what her name was. It’s what was on her nametag.

“Hi,” I said, “how’re you doing today?”

:: crickets ::

With a smile, I handed her my megamart discount card, and apologized for it being attached to my keyring, along with 900 other things.

Again with the crickets, this time with an eye roll as an added bonus.

“OK.” I thought. “She’s having a bad day. It happens to the best of us.” I asked her another question or two, each time with a smile, and each time I got no response, other than a heavy sigh or general look of annoyance. She began flinging my groceries to the end of the belt, and I started to bag the things up.

Suddenly, there was a voice. But it didn’t belong to Sarah.

“Oh, ma’am … let me take care of that for you!” the voice said. I looked up, and there was a bright, bubbly smile shining down on me. The young woman jumped right in, started asking how my day was going, and took care of my groceries. She noted that on one of the items, there was a coupon attached. “Would you like to use this today?” I said that I would, thanks. Finally, Sarah, the Surly, chimed in, “Those won’t work. They’re for something else.” The fresh-faced, friendly girl opined, “Well, I just bought one of these, and the coupon worked for me.” Sarah insisted that she was wrong. I suggested that she give them a try, just to see.

::Beep! Beep!:: The coupons scanned and worked like a charm. Sarah looked as though she’d been slapped in the face.

I asked the fresh-faced girl what her name was. “Karis,” she said. I told her that she’d been greatly helpful and that I hoped she had a great weekend.

Karis beamed. Sarah simply glared.

Now, I don’t know what Sarah’s problem was, but I do know that the difference between her attitude and Karis’s was like the difference between night and day. Something as simple as a smile and a little common courtesy was all it took to take the sour taste left in my mouth by Sarah and turn it sweet as honey.

This stuff isn’t complicated. It’s not rocket science. But it’s amazing how many companies take an attitude similar to Sarah’s. A while back, Chris Brogan wrote a post called Warm The Mug. It was about how the littlest things can make all the difference to a customer’s experience. How the attention to those extra, tiny details can earn you customers for life.

So, why aren’t more companies doing these things?

Take a step back. Look at your business. Think about how you treat your customers. Are you Sarah, or are you Karis? I know which one would get my business.

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