Every interaction matters, especially for retail shops. I negotiated a deal with my partner last night: a trip to Ikea to check out storage in return for a stop at a Dairy Queen for something cold (it’s been brutally hot here in Ottawa this week).So on our way back from looking at shelving and buying stuff — you ALWAYS end up buying stuff at Ikea — we stopped at the ice cream shop. The second one, actually, because the line was OUT THE DOOR at the first one.
We went in, ordered our ice creams from a teenager, and they immediately started extruding our icemilk. Meanwhile, a friend of the counter-boy came in with his girlfriend, and they started catching up.
As we worked away on our frozen treats, they kept chatting. Despite the fact that there was someone waiting to order. The waiting customer didn’t get to put in her order until I was almost finished my sundae.
We had had a positive customer experience. The woman behind us? Not so much. She could as easily have pulled out a cell phone and Tweeted, Yelped, or otherwise expressed her frustration with the poor customer service she was getting.
But it goes beyond that. When you face the public, it’s not just that customer that you’re ticking off, or that customer and her friends, or that customer and her online network. It’s everyone in the shop who happens to observe it. Even though he didn’t realize it, Gossip Boy was interacting with us, the people eating ice cream and with the woman who wanted to eat ice cream just as much as he was interacting with his buddy.
It’s a lesson for anyone employing front counter staff to serve the public. Even though this may seem like a low-end “McJob” — your service staff are on stage and representing your company with much more power than the person whose picture’s on the wall with the gold plaque saying “Our Founder” or the gal who wrote the mission statement that sits on the web site.
And a reminder: if you don’t have a “listening post” set up to see what people are saying about you online, you won’t know that a frustrated customer just trashed you, and you won’t be able to either make it up to them or take steps to improve your staff’s skills.
(This is post number eight in an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing practical advice for small businesspeople in the areas of public relations, communications and social media. If you ever need help with your small business… why not get in touch?)