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Retail Dos and Don’ts: Customer Service

December 20, 2017

Customer Service Dos

Do Unto Others

One of the most important mantras to keep in mind when working in customer service is the “do unto others” mindset. To provide an excellent customer experience, you must first step back from your perspective and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you were the customer, how would you like to be treated in a similar situation? Is there any gesture or action that would stand out to you if the positions were reversed? Try to take a second’s pause to consider this when dealing with your customers. Though some interactions call for more attention than others, each interaction must be treated with the same level of care and respect for the human being with whom you are conversing. Just remember, if there is something that would offend you or put you off of returning to an establishment, odds are that you are not alone in those sentiments and therefore you should treat each individual as if you were talking to a dear friend or family member.


Reach for the Stars

Some customers are easier to please than others, and while the ones who leave you smiling may stand out as the most fulfilling interactions, sometimes it takes a little extra effort to accomplish a positive outcome. I like to consider the latter situation a challenge in excellence, where the extra effort often yields a much larger reward. When you go above and beyond for a customer, the results are extremely rewarding. People can tell when you are genuinely putting in the effort for them, and more often than not, they will show their gratitude to you readily. Reaching for the stars to better serve your customers can be as grand a gesture as contacting a list of sources to secure the product they are searching for, or as simple as giving them local directions if they are unfamiliar with the area. Sometimes all it takes is to offer your name and a personal story to make a connection and show your customers that you care.


Put Your Best Face Forward

As we all know and have heard time and time again, a little goes a long way. In the realm of customer service, a positive attitude is a simple key to success. A tense situation can often be defused with a smile and a kind word. Your customers are human too! That wonderful fuzzy feeling you get when someone genuinely makes you smile is something that we all crave. The entirety of your interaction can be determined from the first “hello.” Your customers will know when you are indifferent or irritated, and likewise will sense when you are energetic and reciprocate by showing the same kindness to you. Though your uniform may be neat and tidy, you’re never fully dressed without a smile!


Take Responsibility

The phrase “the customer is always right” may sound redundant and cliché, but in customer service it is a mentality that must be engrained into your very core. You exist to provide your customers with a pleasant shopping experience and when someone expresses their dissatisfaction, it is up to you alone to take responsibility for their displeasure. A genuine apology goes a very long way when dealing with an irate customer. When you or your staff have made a mistake that affects the overall experience, it is important to remedy that mistake as quickly as possible and with ample grace and humility. Your average customer is not out to scam or swindle you, so when an issue is brought to your attention, immediate action and taking full responsibility for the problem at hand will make your customer feel adequately valued and appreciated.


Customer Service Don’ts 

Never Ignore Your Customers

Something that I cannot stress enough is to never ever make your customers feel like they are interrupting you. Your first priority is to make them feel welcomed and respected, and it can be as subtle as asking your fellow staff to wait while you help a customer in front of you. Employee interaction is obviously an important aspect of your daily work, but it should never infringe upon a customer’s time. When you are helping someone, they should have your full and undivided attention— you should never rush time spent with a customer. As in many aspects of life, eye contact is crucial in making someone feel truly valued and when it comes to customer service, taking the extra moment to give a customer your full attention will often result in a lasting business relationship.


Don’t Treat People like Dollar Signs

Though your customers are quite literally what may make or break your business based on how much they spend in your store, it is important to remember that they are human beings (basic, I know), and not walking wallets. While big purchases are something to strive for, what makes a difference in customer service is not the immediate sales figures, but the returning customers. If someone comes in and only buys one item but is treated to an excellent customer experience, they will likely return again and again, and the benefits will be larger in the long run. Whereas if someone makes a large purchase but is ignored or badgered to buy things they don’t want, then they make that one purchase and avoid your store in future. Though it may seem like common sense, remembering that your customers are people and not dollar signs can make the difference between merely selling product and creating a warm and welcoming environment that people are more willing to recommend, which will help to grow your customer base. Make sure to take the time to treat your customers as human beings, not mere transactions, and their loyalty will follow easily.


Aggression Is Not the Answer

It seems that more and more, retail establishments are losing the human touch and setting out on the attack to bring in higher sales numbers. The retail floor becomes a veritable safari, where the clerks are the hunters and the customers are the helpless wandering creatures. From a customer perspective, I can personally say that the “hunt and attack” approach has legitimately discouraged me from returning to particular businesses, as I believe the customer experience is ruined by forced guidance. What makes a genuinely successful interaction is primarily the knowledge that there is a friendly and experienced employee available nearby to assist if help is required. In order to create a satisfying customer experience, a kind “hello/welcome” at the door and a simple “can I help you with anything today?” is sometimes all it takes to initiate a successful sale. Don’t think of sales as a do-or-die effort, but rather let your customer guide you in what most appeals to them. Through the power of polite recommendation, not only will the sales follow, but customers will appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a comfortable shopping experience without feeling pressured.


Don’t Be Discouraged by Negative Feedback

It can be absolutely heartbreaking to receive a negative comment from one of your customers. What makes you stand out in customer service, however, is how you handle that kind of negative feedback. Regardless of how biting a review may be, it is important not to take these comments to heart. The individual who filed the complaint often had an unsatisfactory experience and had no intention of personally attacking anyone. Rather than letting it break you, or brushing it under the rug as something you’d rather not deal with, the really successful customer-savvy folks will take that comment and learn from it. A negative review is a golden opportunity to improve your business and create a more satisfying shopping experience for your future customers. Take it as a compliment that this individual actually took the time to express their thoughts to you, thereby giving you the tools you need to go forward in rectifying the issues and improving your overall customer service standards.


Samara Bissonnette

Book Outlet

Retail Store Manager



Cynthia Sanford replied 4 years ago

Great Article!

One suggestion I’d like to offer when dealing with an unhappy customer is to LISTEN FIRST.
I have had to deal with unhappy customers on occasion. When I listen to everything they have to say first, two good things come out of the situation.
First, the customer got to blow off steam.
Second, I have heard the entire problem BEFORE offering a solution.
I have had someone try to help me when I was the unhappy customer before I could explain the entire problem. The solution they offered didn’t deal with it completely. This just wasted their time and mine and created frustration for both of us.

Book Depot replied 4 years ago

Great suggestion Cynthia! Thank you so much for sharing! Dealing with unhappy customers is always tricky business, but your suggestion is definitely a great starting point!

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