Terrah Short earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy (Analytic) with a Minor in Disaster Risk Reduction from Western Washington University in March 2017. She is a product of a working single father and the Puget Sound area of Western Washington in the United States of America. Here we talk about customer service.
One of the main jobs of the individual who is working with each customer is keeping them happy. This is not an easy task. Indeed, it is highly difficult. Although, retail work is considered lowly and menial work, and can be in many instances; the skill-set required for the proper delivery of retail customer service is high-level sociability and affable interaction with a wide smattering of customers who may be coming to the store with a variety of issues.
Short said, “You must take into account the individual, with each customer. When I really think about it, it does seem quite exhausting! Like in all facets of life, it’s important to remember that they are each an individual person, just like every retail worker. To get more in-depth, how I manage each customer is going to depend on what shift I’m working, what time of day it is, how busy it is, and sometimes it comes down to my own mood or what’s going on in my life, though I do my best not to let that affect my quality of service.”
She makes an explicit and concerted effort to meet the customers where they’re at, so Short can be provided for their need relative to the role and mandate of the role for her retail position. Some need meat. Others need soap. Still others, they may need bags; whereas, others may not care so much.
Short stated, “I recall a customer who appeared able-bodied, but when I asked if they needed their bags light (they had brought a large amount of them), they lit up and were grateful I asked as they had recently had surgery and couldn’t lift more than 10lbs. At the end of the day, I think we all appreciate someone taking an interest in the big or small needs that we as a customer may forget to ask or just appreciate even if we weren’t in need of the accommodation.”
There can be problems of a customer who is wrong. This is one problem. However, if the customer is amiable and willing to cooperate and converse with the retail service worker, then this can expedite corrections to the issue. The real issue is a customer who is both wrong and belligerent. This can create a stressful and nigh impossible task of de-escalation.
Short puts in the effort to hear them, to see where they are sincerely come from; nonetheless, as you might imagine, this can be a difficult task at times. One solution is simply getting the transaction done and then offering whatever is needed to soothe and manage the situation most amicably. As with other areas of work, if something rises to a rather unmanageable level, then there can be escalation to higher levels of authority. Those with more responsibilities within the mandate of their roles.
“The biggest challenges have come up when I personally was working our swing/night shift (generally 8pm-3:30am), and I have other co-workers who work this shift and have had similar experiences. At night, since there can be anywhere from myself (the cashier) and four others (our grocery night stockers) to just myself and the night PIC,” Short explained, “Generally, I would try to triage the situation myself, tolerate what could be described as abusive behavior from customers, because if I wasn’t in danger or if it wasn’t becoming too much of an issue, there was no reason to bring the PIC into it.”
Those who come into retail stores will, quite predictably, come from a wide range of the population of America. Within this population sampling, Short will experience a wide set of the total population of the United States, including the mentally ill, the deranged, high school and college students, professors, tourists from Europe, and others.
Certainly, one problem can the issue of helping the lower-level employees deal with a problem that has been escalated to the level of Short. If the lower-ranked employee can manage, then this isn’t an issue. However, in other contexts, it can be an issue. That is when there is a need for an escalation to a higher level of the issue, to the supervisors for example.
Short concluded, “I think it relates to all of it. Do your best to provide a positive experience for the customer, but make sure you adhere to, or even defer to, company policy. That is one way we are encouraged to protect ourselves or to explain decisions made, especially when selling alcohol or tobacco, that it is company policy and there is nothing we can really do. I think it is important that we as retail service folks start to stand up with the power that is being afforded us through our Unions and support from our supervisors. Taking care of ourselves needs to be the priority, but far too often, we just need to pay the bills and sometimes that means putting up with unpleasantness.”
Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: [email protected].
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Image Credit: Terrah Short.