I recently found this board at a local grocery store.
I normally don’t pay attention to these signs, but in this case I did. I sat there staring at this board trying to make sense of it. The longer I stared, the more confused I felt. So I did what anyone with a smartphone would do: I took a picture of it.
Later on, I tried to make sense of the board, and here’s what my perception was:
- That the employees will be rewarded for obtaining nothing more than Ds and Fs, if we use a standard grading scale.
- The baggers need to be nice to only 1 out of every 2 customers.
- The cashiers are coming in at a D- with 62% approval.
Are these standards what it means to “Make a Difference,” as the board exclaims in red letters? (Maybe they should add the word positive.)
The short answer: NO! In this era of fierce competition for brand recognition and customer loyalty, customer service is more important than ever, in every industry. Customers have the advantage of being rich in available options: grocery or farmers’ market, coffee shop or home espresso maker, Google or Yahoo!, iPhone or Android. If one company isn’t giving customers what they want, another is likely waiting in the wings to take those customers away.
Although I work in the tech industry now, I grew up working in my dad’s small local grocery store, before I was able to see over the counter. My dad had a particular sign hanging above the cash register:
Rule #1, The customer is always right!
Rule #2, If the customer is wrong, please refer to Rule #1!
I remember back to the day when Helen, Dad’s store manager, taught me at a young age all the jobs in the store:
- Sweeping the floors
- Bagging groceries
- Taking the groceries out to cars
- Ringing up sales
- Making change (I did it without a calculator. Yes it is possible, and I can actually do it faster than you can with a calculator.)
- Stocking the shelves
- Learning what each customer normally purchased (When we saw certain people pull up, we would start gathering their order.)
That’s just a small list of what Helen and Dad taught me to do. I found that working hard and providing great service was not only rewarding for me, but the customers developed a sense of loyalty to the employees and the business. Over the 40+ years that my dad owned that store, I worked many of those years side by side with him. Our goal and “Make A Difference” sign was always around the 95% range, not 60s and 50s.
The result of our hard work? A loyal and happy customer base.
Now that the days of the Bellmore Country Store are behind me and I look forward to my days at BitLoft, I still use what I learned at a young age: Do it right, do it better than anyone else, don’t accept a job done poorly, and treat your customers with honesty and integrity. During my career, I have worn many hats: bag boy, lifeguard, flight instructor, pilot, systems engineer, project manager, and now operations director. I have always done my best to provide stellar customer service.
So as a consumer and provider, I tell you, don’t accept terrible customer service as the norm. It is not the norm!
Robert Howenstine and Helen Martin at the Bellmore Country Store, mid-1970s.
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