Who’s Minding the Store?

While up skiing this weekend, Big E and I stopped into the ski rental shop we visit often. While renting skis for my daughter I remembered something I had bought from that store over Christmas holiday had broken. I sought out a clerk and showed her my broken purchase (a ski hat with headphones built in). I didn’t expect them to do anything, but I had only wore it 6 or 7 times so I figured I’d ask. The clerk said she couldn’t help and even suggested I buy another hat and purchase their extended warranty in case it happened again, then they would cover it. No apologies, no acknowledgment of what little value I got by only having been able to wear it a few times.

That didn’t go anywhere. I figured, let’s try the manager.

The manager comes over and I share with her my story and that I didn’t expect them to do anything, but I figured I’d ask because I got so little use out of the headset and hat. Before I finish I can see the defensive irritation building in her. Once given the chance to speak she proceeds to tell me, there is nothing she can do, and besides even IF I had the receipt it looks to her that the problem was not a manufacturers defect but something I broke. She told me it looked as if someone had stepped on it.

Now, after talking to the manager, I realize not only am I not going to get help with the hat, but no one was going to acknowledge that I got kind of a bum deal, and worse yet I’m being accused of being dishonest and broke it myself. The manager finally caps the experience with “you bought something in December, your not happy with it. What do you want me to do about it.”

Regardless of whether or not she could fix it. I know realize that I may not have expected them to fix it (however it would have been nice if they did) what I wanted was acknowledgment that I didn’t get the value I should have from something purchased at their store. I wanted them to at least make me feel better about it.

In today’s tough market, your existing customer base is everything. The customer is not always right, but their feelings are. It is critical that every person who engages your customers and clients validate their feelings as its their feelings that drives connection and loyalty to your business. Make your customers feel like an imposition, difficult, or worse yet dishonest and you can bet returning to your store or buying your products will be low on the priority list.

Far too often sales people, store clerks, managers and other customer facing employees put their own ego and identity ahead of the customer. Acknowledgment of your customer and customers feelings is free. You can’t always fix a customers problem, BUT you can always make them feel that their problem mattered.

Who’s minding your store? If they don’t know how to mind your customers feelings, they aren’t minding anything.