Are your staff’s customer service priorities upside-down?

We’ve all been there. We’ve gone to a store, found what we want to buy and taken it up to the counter to hand over our money. And then nothing happens. Or worse, staff appear to have better things to do and walk right past or away from us.

In all likelihood, you’re not being ignored so much as the staff have been assigned what they interpreted as tasks of higher priority. They’re buzzing around doing all the busy work their boss has given them that MUST be finished before the end of their shifts. The company culture is all upside-down.

In an upside-down culture, instead of placing emphasis on customer service and fulfillment, emphasis is on operations and administration. This means staff are more worried about getting their assigned tasks done than they are with customer care because that’s what they were told to do. Since so much time and energy was spent on how to stock inventory, clean, record, keep track, prep or refill, how could they think anything else was more important?

Is your business like this? Stand outside and watch how customers are being greeted, assisted and their requests fulfilled. Do staff happily disengage from their tasks to help customers or do they appear interrupted? If so, what can you do to change your company culture? It’s very simple really.

To make your company more customer-oriented and less administration and operations-oriented, you and your managers need to be certain to place an emphasis in training and preparation of staff to perform those roles. Staff also need to know that their other busy work is less important and they will never be in trouble for walking away from a task in order to help a customer. Better yet, instill a teamwork culture where all staff back each other up. This can mean happily finishing tasks other staff had to abandon to help customers. Just like in sports, the person that assists the person who scores is just as important.

Of course, the pendulum can always swing too far as I encountered during a recent visit to an office products store. I was greeted cordially when I arrived. Good! I was asked if I needed help finding what I was looking for. Good! But the staff was unable to detach when I said I’d, “found what I was looking for, thank you” and I stopped responding to his neverending questions about what specific features I was looking for. I ended up walking out without purchasing because I was put off by this unneeded shopping assistant.

Put the emphasis on the customer experience, but don’t go getting all crazy about it.

I do want to recognize what I see as a very positive trend appearing in the customer experience in grocery and drug stores. Staff will point out something the customer has purchased and comment “Isn’t that stuff great?” or ask, “Have you used this before? I’ve always wondered how good it is.” This brief chit-chat lets the customer know staff is specifically focused on them and encourages feedback. It also reinforces the buying decision and promotes word-of-mouth as the customer is likely to refer to this conversation in the future.