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A Retail Nightmare –When Employees Lose Business

This is a real story that happened this week.   I typically like to take the high road and don’t write blogs about poor customer service.  However, this one shocked me a little bit.  No need to share the name of the retail store, but they are a very well-known chain in the Northeast.

Poor Customer Service Cartoon

Bad service cartoon image provided by TimphuTech, April 2012

A customer walks into a store to buy a birthday gift for their granddaughter.  The customer never shops at the store.  She does not fit the “profile” of their typical customer, but she wanted to purchase an item she knew would make her granddaughter very happy.  Not wanting to make a mistake, she asked an employee a simple question – can you tell me where I can find the item I am looking for?   If I were a betting man, I would place a wager that this is one of the most common questions that retail staff get from potential customers.  Then, in a matter of seconds, the employee says to her “why would you buy that for her?”, then goes over to the section, shows it to her and walks away.  The woman is shocked, clearly left feeling insulted and confused about what just transpired.

It gets worse.  Another person in the store, a fan of the stores products, hears the exchange and is so turned off by it that he leaves.  This situation is so memorable and bothered him so much that he submits what is on his mind immediately to Justellus.   This customer feedback and story is through his eyes.  And, it did not even happen to him.

What are the long term ramifications for the retail chain if they do not address this?  How much revenue might this store lose as a result of  this employee?   How are his actions influencing other staff members?   What happens if the person who submitted the feedback decided to share the specifics surrounding the situation across social media channels?  How many people do you think the grandmother told the story to since then?

Retail stores do their best to hire good, customer facing people and sometimes it does not work out that way.  Let’s face it – no person or company is perfect.  Perhaps the guy was having a bad day.  There is nothing they can do, but what happens if this is not a one off issue and it is not addressed?

Before she walked into the store, I am sure the woman was very excited about purchasing the gift for her granddaughter.  I bet she put some thought and energy into finding out what she might like, went to the retail store anticipating the reaction she might get when it is opened, and feeling like her money was being well spent.

In this case, I suspect that even if the woman’s granddaughter absolutely loves the gift, the grandmother will think about her terrible customer experience at the store.  And, that really stinks worse than the service that day.