Retail customer service comes in many forms and levels – a spectrum of care, if I may be so bold.
The highest level might include an immediate acknowledgement of your presence, “Hello, how can I help you?” or “Hello, I’ll be with you in a moment.” Followed by some assistance if need be, a little small talk, a quick transaction and a farewell. Throw in a freebie promotion or extra discount, and you’re guaranteed a happy customer, probably a returning one if there is a sincere attempt at forming a connection.
The lowest level might include shop assistants standing around gasbagging or placing more importance on restocking merchandise instead of helping their customers. There little to no care with forming any connection. These employees are counting the minutes until closing and simply waiting for the next paycheck. You’re actually doing them a disservice by being in the store.
When you go into a shop, what do you expect from a customer service attendant? At a minimum, I expect a greeting or an acknowledgement of my presence. Recently, I experienced a level of customer service not previously charted – it was so poor that it was off the spectrum!
I was passing a boutique clothing store and noticed the linen skirt that I had previously eyed, reduced by 30%. I really wanted it. I hadn’t bought anything for myself since… you know, I can’t even remember – that’s how long ago.
I rarely buy clothing at full prices. Being on one income and having children (costly little things) means that I opt for clothing from the sales rack or budget shops (BTW major Kmart fan). I don’t have anyone to impress or anywhere to be, so usually, I’m slobbing in a long granny cardigan and some colour faded leggings or unfashionably high-waisted jeans. It’s my go-to outfit, the one I’m most comfortable in, despite looking like the Runway Goddess of the Dag.
So on a whim, I took the skirt into the store with my three-year-old son and waited for a free change room.
I read somewhere that within the first seven seconds upon meeting a person, our subconscious mind makes a series of assessments, AKA judgements on a range of areas such as intelligence, socioeconomic status, trustworthiness, sexual orientation and promiscuity. I guess that’s why there’s the phrase “people are quick to judge.”
The sales assistant, who I presumed was the owner, must have found me severely lacking after those seven seconds of judging. I must have given her a bad first impression, so much so, that she immediately despised my presence. It’s either that or she had the best resting bitch face I have ever seen. You just know when someone is judging you. It makes your skin crawl and your gut squeamish. You feel it. It’s called intuition.
As soon as I stepped within the store, I felt the weight of her stare; her laser penetrating beams projected by her beady eyes, tracking my every move. The old coot had a downturned mouth and a surly disposition. She didn’t gift me a smile or a greeting, simply watched my son and I, standing a metre away. This woman was sending me bad vibes and visual cues that made me feel unfairly judged. It felt as though she was attempting to telepathically shoo me out of her store.
I have never experienced this kind of customer service. It had me recalibrating my spectrum of care. This was the new low. I couldn’t fathom the reason behind this woman’s seemingly poor behaviour.
Was she like this to all her customers? Was she having a bad day? Does she not care about fostering good relations with customers and encouraging repeat business? Or was it me?
Was it because I had a three-year-old with me? Does she hate children? Was she worried about the damage he might cause to her merchandise? I mean, he was walking between the aisles and face-planting against the mirror but it was harmless fun (Probably lost some good brain cells but eh!). I wasn’t about to let him pull clothes off racks or throw jewellery across the room!
Or was it because of my appearance? Did I look like a penniless chump off the streets looking to swipe some goods? Sure I had on my ratty cardigan and could pass as a Bogan, but I had shoes on… so didn’t I meet the minimum requirements for service? Plus, I had money! Well, a credit card.
I hate to think it had anything to do with my nationality or physical appearance. Australia is a vibrant multicultural country with rich cultural diversity, so overt racism is rarely experienced. I don’t like to pull the race card, so I refuse to believe it was the reason for the lacklustre service.
The woman’s blatant disregard for customer service really had me feeling bad. Fancy that! And after all that emotional turmoil, the seam on the skirt tore upon the first wear!
I’m sure there is a lesson in here somewhere… Maybe next time I see something I really want, I’ll do online shopping instead.
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