Friday Discussion: Reflections on good customer service

Jeremy: Hey Jenny, I’m finding it so easy to talk about negative customer service experiences on this blog and I know you would agree that we need to balance it out with some positive as well.  So in the spirit of this wonderful Friday, what are some characteristics of good customer service experiences?  I’m specifically thinking about retail stores, grocery stories and big home improvement warehouses.  Go!

Jenny: Hey Jeremy, you’re so right–we need to spice this up with some good stuff! Thinking back on some of the greatest customer service experiences I have ever had, they all contain at least one of these elements:

  • A happy smile, friendly and BELIEVABLE acknowledgement (when walking into the store, at the register, leaving the store, etc.) complete with “Hello” or “How are you” or “Thanks!”
  • Asking to help me OR me asking for help and the employee going out of their way to do so with a good attitude.
  • Something personal that ties me into the “shopping experience”—a funny joke, a brief conversation about the day/store/product, etc.

At this point, I think that sums it up. It truly is all about the customer service experience, though. Last winter, I was in a tiny discount store in New York City looking for some cheap scarves and mittens. The store was crowded and cluttered, definitely not the kind of place I’d really ever go to (but it was COLD). However, the lady who helped me find what I needed was so amazingly kind (going out of her way to show me all the scarves and mittens they had, showing me different ways to wear the scarves, etc.) that it made this dirty place shine.

What are some of your required characteristics of a great customer service experience, Jeremy?

Jeremy: Hey Jenny, great response.  I think some of my reflections are similar but I can honestly say I’ve never been shopping for scarves.  Anyway, a lot of my experience is at home improvement warehouse stores where I think they can sometimes be hit and miss depending on who’s working.  Here are some characteristics of good experiences:

  • I love it when employees are really outgoing and make you feel welcome.  I totally don’t have that kind of bubbly, outgoing personality so those people pull me out of my shell and make me excited to be there.
  • Very often an employee will have a line of people waiting to ask them a question and I love it when they at least acknowledge that they will be right with me.  Some just ignore and hope you go away.  Sounds kind of like a call queue.
  • I love it when I ask an employee where something is and they take complete ownership and walk me to it.  I’m generally fine if they just tell me where to go but this extra service makes me go wow.  I tweeted earlier about checkout at Ralph’s and Albertson’s but the reason I typically go to Vons/Safeway is just that.
  • On a customer experience front, I love it when stores take into account the width of shopping carts and make the aisles wide enough to fit two shopping carts.

Anyway, good reflections!  Do you have anything else to add?

Jenny: Well Jeremy, in regards to shopping for scarves, I guess that’s what I get for moving from CA to PA, huh?

Those are some great points—the bubbly, outgoing personality of people at stores really does bring on excitement, even when you’re shopping for something not so exciting, like cold medicine or toilet paper. The ownership is truly important too and makes such a huge difference (obviously since you’re shopping at one store versus the other due to this)!

And, wow the aisle width is a big annoyance but I’ve never really thought about it  before from this view point (just suspect it to be the “way it is”). But maybe that says something about the stores I shop in!

I guess I’ll just add that I also like being remembered when I go to a store that I frequent. Being able to wave hello to the checker, the pizza place knowing your order or the barista knowing your name and drink is just truly golden service to me. They don’t have to do this, it’s not in their job description, but it makes me want to continue to return there again and again. When I worked at Starbucks, I loved my “regular” customers. Seeing them walk in and having their drink ready to go when they approached the register, sharing stories together, or even taking my break and sitting with them at a table! I am huge fan of making the customer experience a more personal experience and I want to believe that I have carried that over into my job here in customer support. What about you?

Jeremy: Hey Jenny, that’s a great point.  As we’ve talked about before, learning someone’s name and making a personal emotional connection is huge.  I thought of one more thing before we wrap it up.  When I take my kids to stores I love it when employees do something nice for my kids.  At the grocery store that might mean giving them stickers, at the pet store it might be a dog treat (JK!), at Home Depot it’s a piece of candy and at Costco, the people checking my basket put a happy face on the receipt.  A little thoughtfulness and effort go a long way.  Hmm, wondering if we could pulls something like that off in a call center?!?!

Ok, I’m gonna wrap this one up.  Thanks for talking.  Next time maybe we can be super negative!  Happy Friday everyone!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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