Four Customer Service Lessons From Just One Store Visit

As a customer experience speaker and consultant, I’m always analyzing the level of service I receive when I’m out in the world as a customer. I’m actually a very easy and forgiving customer, but I’m still watching and listening because there are often stories or examples I can use in a presentation or blog post. I try to balance the good with the bad.

I believe this is a good practice for anyone to apply. When you’re a customer, notice what’s happening in terms of the service you’re receiving. Whether the service is good, bad, or indifferent, there are always opportunities to learn from what we’re experiencing. If it’s good or excellent service, take a moment to determine why it’s so good and think about how you can apply what you’re seeing or hearing to your own role. If it’s bad or indifferent service think about whether you’re ever guilty of those behaviors in your own role and vow to eliminate them from your approach. 

I was recently in a store and found it was a goldmine of examples of what not to do. The service wasn’t bad, it was indifferent. I didn’t feel valued as a customer – I felt more like an interruption. Even though there were two employees toward the front of the store who saw me when I entered, neither offered a friendly greeting, they just continued their conversation. As I wandered the aisles looking for what I was shopping for, no one offered help even though it was clear I was searching. When I approached an employee for help finding the product, he replied, “I think that’s on aisle 10” and went back to stocking shelves (with his large cart right in the middle of the aisle). 

This indifferent service kept up throughout my entire store experience. Again, no one was outright rude, it’s just that I didn’t feel that anyone was happy I was there. I felt more like an interruption rather than welcome. I will say that the cashier told me to have a nice day, but it was as he was turning away from me to the next customer and sounded more robotic than sincere. 

As I mentioned earlier, my store experience was a master class in customer service. Turning each of the interactions to focus on what SHOULD have happened I concluded:

  1. A warm sincere greeting is important if customers are to feel welcome. It takes almost no effort to make eye contact, smile, and say hello. And yes, even while wearing a mask people can tell if you’re smiling.  

  2. Offer assistance to customers who obviously need help. And even if it’s not obvious, it’s nice to hear an employee say, “Just let me know if you need help with anything.”
  1. When you can, take the extra step of guiding customers to the product or information they need. Customers truly appreciate that extra step.
  1. A fond farewell at the end of the interaction instills the desire for me to come back. It can be something as simple as, “See you next time!” It creates a warm feeling.

So, there you have it – four customer experience lessons from a single store visit. If I was leading a team meeting, I could share this story, discuss the lessons learned, and ask participants how those lessons apply to their own roles. Even better, I could ask attendees to share their own stories and learnings which encourages them to keep their customer experience antennae up when they’re out in the world. 

Here’s something to think about: What’s a recent customer service experience you’ve had and what can you or others learn from that experience?