Is good customer service dead?
Recently I did some yard work for my sister. Halfway through the job I realized we needed more supplies so off to the local Lowe’s we went. After buying the supplies and loading them in her car we realized there were mechanical problems with the car and we were now stuck there in the parking lot in the middle of a 100+ degree day. Seeing a Walmart across the street about 400 yards away, I decided to purchase a small tool kit and material to fix the car. This turned out to be a decision that would literally cost me!
Entering the Walmart I immediately ran straight to the auto care department where I found everything I needed to make the repair. Since I was closer to the garden department I went directly to the cashier who was closest to the exit. I noticed she was just standing there while a customer anxiously awaited the completion of the checkout. I asked politely if the register was working or if I should go to another cashier. She rolled her eyes and seemingly dismissed my question as rhetorical. Realizing this was not going to be a short wait I decided to run to the other side of the store and use one of the self-checkout systems since it would be the quickest way to get me back to my sister and her comatose vehicle. I hurriedly scanned my items and waited for the system to compute the total. While waiting I observed the ‘customer care associate’ texting several messages on her phone and ignoring customers who were clearly having technical difficulty with their machines. I wondered how much time she was paid for while texting on the job. Switching gears back to the task at hand, I carefully slid my dollar bills through the slot and paid for my items. With my waiting sister on my mind, I grabbed my change, snatched up my bag of items and hustled out towards the exit. Going through the doorway I was met with another Walmart employee who asked for my receipt to prove I had paid for my items. This was a frustrating delay but I complied and began looking for my receipt in the bag, my pockets, my wallet and the floor all around me. After a couple agonizing minutes I realized that the receipt had been lost somewhere in the last 15 feet from the register to the doorway.
The Walmart screener suggested that we go back to the register and if the cashier could recognize me I would be allowed to leave with my items. She walked me right up to the young lady who at this point was still in the middle of a text message marathon. After rolling her eyes at the interruption of her digital dialogue, the screener asked her if she saw me pay for my items. Her eyes scanned from my work boots to my dirty sweat soaked baseball cap and with another roll of the eyes stated that she had never seen me before. I asked with incredible restraint how she could forget me from no more than 2 minutes ago especially since my sun-baked odor alone was more than enough for anyone to remember. She obviously didn’t see the humor in my comment and immediately went back to texting. The screener used her radio to summon a manager. The first manager to arrive was a lady with a radio in one hand, a clipboard in the other and something that looked like a bright pink telephone cord around her wrist with a bunch of keys attached to it. I figured that she had the look of someone who could find a solution to this problem. I figured wrong. What I got instead was a lecture on how it is the customer’s responsibility to save the receipt and if a proof of purchase could not be proved, she would have to call security. She stated that it would be no less than 30 minutes before she would have a chance to review the receipts on the machine. With little patience left in me, I asked her to call security and get it over with. She turned her back to me and walked away. The screener, sensing my increasing frustration then flagged down another manager. This one seemed to be lower in rank but extraordinarily higher in empathy. She approached me by first apologizing for the inconvenience. This immediately brought my anger level down to a manageable level. She then told me what she could do to work towards solving this problem. She used her radio to call the security personnel to review the tape of the register to see if they could see me paying for my items. She said this was a quicker way to resolve this matter and asked if there was anything I needed while I waited. I said no and thanked her for her help. Later, she was contacted by security and told that it would be a great while before they could get around to reviewing the tape. I explained to her that my sister was waiting in a hot car now for more than a half hour in the middle of a parking lot by herself. Out of desperation, I paid for my items again. I should mention here that I was brought right back to the original text messaging clock-milker who said she never saw me before. She rang me up, again, for my item and I went out to fix the car. Afterwards, I returned to the store and found out that the security personnel had reviewed the wrong tape of the wrong register and that they eventually found proof of my purchase. I got a quick “Sorry about that” and was given my money back for the second purchase of the same item.
I thought about this for a long time after I left the store and realized that there were many ways and many opportunities missed to show quality customer service to me during this issue. Perhaps it was the way I was dressed from doing yard work or perhaps I was one of merely thousands of blank faces that would come in and out of the store that day. What I do know is that on this day, customer service did not prevail. I also realized that I would be a little more careful about how I respond to customers of my own in the future.
It feels horrible when you realize that your business is not appreciated and even worse when you realize that there isn’t much you can do about it. Furthermore, I find myself missing good customer service in many places I visit these days.
So if you read this and can sympathize with this story, do me a favor. Take a little extra time to make someone’s day a little brighter. Empathize with those who have challenges and take the time to help them solve them.
You never know when the person you are talking to has someone waiting for them in a hot car in a parking lot somewhere.
Let’s bring good customer service back from the dead!~