How to ensure terrible customer service...

Monday, February 18, 2013

The town I am in is growing very quickly.  We recently got a new University, the college is expanding, and lots of new retail chains are coming to our little town.  I am not entirely anti-big-box stores, they have their place, but like most people, I have concerns of them running the little businesses that really make our community thrive out of town.

I also have some concerns about how absolutely ridiculously bad the customer service is.  As someone who has worked in retail, as someone who operates a business, and as someone who shops, I think I have some level of expertise in the matter.  I apologize in advance because this is a bit of a rant...

I've come up with a few tips on how business can provide utterly horrible customer service.

1. Pay your employees as little as legally possible.  Not only will they be stressed about making ends meet with every pay cheque, they will feel belittled and undervalued! A great way to put an employee in a positive mindset.

2. Provide little to no customer service training.  I had kind of an unusual experience at a check out at a big box craft store recently. I walked up to the cashier, who scanned my two items, then stared blankly at me for a few moments until she blurted, "How are you paying?". I was a little surprised because she never told me how much it was so I asked, "Aren't you supposed to tell me how much the total comes to?" to which she replied in a rather unpleasant "You can clearly read it for yourself on the screen."  Cashing out is such a simple thing but it it leaves you with your final memory of that experience, and in this case it was just a bizarre one...

3. Provide no product training or store operations training.  It is almost useless to ask an employee at a department store for advice as to which coffee maker is the best for your money, or to ask an employee at a clothing store if they will be getting any more of a certain blouse.  They don't know.  They aren't usually even given that information.  There is a fabric store here in town that exemplifies this... I have worked for this chain in the stores and in their design department so I am somewhat familiar with how it runs.  I was in there recently looking for a specific item that I knew was a re-orderable item. I brought up a different colourway of the item and asked if they had more in the back in the colour I wanted, or if they knew if they would be receiving a shipment soon.  The answer I got, "We don't have any. We just get it when we get it."  Uh... THANKS! Totally unhelpful, and totally wrong.  I searched and found more on another shelf, and I knew it was a re-stockable item.  It was frustrated because either a) the employee just didn't care to check or b) she wasn't given the information about what items they can get more of and what items they can't.

4. Make your employees work long hours and holidays.  I used to work at very popular clothing store in a large mall in Toronto.  This mall was open every day except for Christmas day.  That meant you pretty much had a good chance of working nearly every stat day. I figured working in retail I'd work some crappy hours, but missing out on family events all the time to stock shelves and peddle cheap clothing can really get to you. Sure you get time and a half, but when you're making minimum wage it doesn't really account for much. Today is family day, which is a statutory holiday on Ontario, and yet so many stores are open.  Why does Walmart need to be open on a day that is supposed to be spent with your family?

5. Outsource everything! Remember that problem I had with Canada Post? Well, it's resolved and they refunded me my money! Happy ending! However, it was really, really difficult to get to the right person who could give me information about my packages. I eventually found out that I dropped off the missing packages at a "franchised" post office location, which caused problems because the call center cannot communicate directly with the franchise locations.  UGH! It makes is nearly impossible for anyone to help you.  So, unless you are a total pain in the butt customer like me and do all the leg work yourself, it is really hard to get things resolved!

6. Have 12 Cash Registers, but only have 2 operating.  This is a grocery store pet peeve.  I hate grocery shopping to begin with.  It angers me to no end when I see 12 lanes, but only 2 cashiers working, with line ups a mile-long at each.  That's 10 more people who could be working, and I could get half an hour of my life back.

I can't just blame employees for bad customer service, I know that it is a hard job that rarely gets any thanks.  I absolutely believe much of the bad customer service that is out there today trickles down from the top.  You pay your employee crap, you don't train them properly, you're going to provide a crap experience.  Everyone wants to do the best job they can do, but it is hard when you are not given the tools to do so.  It seems so basic to me!

All of that aside, I have experienced some really great customer service lately too! The one that really sticks out in my mind is when I went with Dan to buy work boots.  We went into this little work-wear store downtown that sells coveralls and steel toe boots and stuff that construction workers wear.  It was small and packed and I wondered what the big deal about this store was, until the guy who was working there asked us if we needed any help.  Dan said he needed boots that had good grip for working on oil surfaces, were waterproof, steel toe and comfortable.  This guy knew everything, absolutely everything about boots! I wanted a pair of steel toed boots by the time he was done.  He was pleasant, friendly, knowledgeable .. he actually cared about what he was doing!!! He was excited about boots!!! Any time Dan needs anything for work, that is the place I'd go.

There are a few other shops downtown that I just love to be in.  The people are friendly, they care about what they do, they have pride in their shops and their job, and you can clearly see that by the service they provide.

I am not a perfect person or a perfect business owner, but I always take the approach that I should treat people the way I'd like to be treated as a customer. We all have our moments where our patience runs thin, our tone isn't as nice as it should be, or we forget to say 'Thank you' but as a whole, I feel like the service we receive is really sub-standard, and it's frustrating!  There are actually some places that I shop at that I dread going to because I feel lie I am wrecking the employees day by shopping there!

Have you received any horrible or amazingly awesome customer service lately?  Do you think there is any going back to the days of good customer service?


  1. #1 reminds me of Chris Rock saying "You know what it says when they pay you minimum wage? It says if they could pay you any less they would."

  2. It's terrible to pay people barely enough to survive on and in many cases not really enough to survive on. But if workers get paid more, all the prices go up and people complain because they don't understand or care. It's all a big bad cycle of people not wanting to pay what something or someone is worth. I think a lot of the time we don't know what things really should cost.

    There's a new restaurant that we really love. The people are friendly and they recognize us. We've had a few problems with orders, but the way they deal with it is so great that it doesn't even matter.

    There's also a new dvd store. The people at the only one there used to be in town weren't friendly and they fined you if you were a few minutes late. They also had no deals where you could take out movies for more than one day. The new shop has very nice people and we can keep movies for a week. I've been late twice and they've always told me that I had an extra day for some reason, but I'm sure they were just being nice.

    Good customer service makes such a big difference to your experience.

  3. There's a restaurant that recently opened up. I have had ONE good experience, and a handful of bad ones. Example one: they close the kitchen at 11, so we walk in at 10:30 to see it's a quiet night. There's NO staff, no host, and the bartender sees and ignores us. Example two: it's a moderately full house, with a handful of open four-tops. We walk in (2 of us) and ask for seating. They say it's a 45 minute wait because they're not willing to seat the present two-top where the imaginary four-top could be. Example three: they don't post their menu outside. You have to walk in, and be that asshole that asks for a menu to see if you're in the mood for their upscale Mexican food (think rich creamy sauces and polenta).

    Well I'm sorry -- but I'm NEVER in the mood to do more than walk by and see all the schmucks who actually pay your prices.

  4. I work at a huge box store and its horrid. The registers bit is funny because today they had scheduled enough cashiers and half called out and two others quit. Where I live decent workers are hard to find. Too many lazy folks get hired making the low paying job even harder. And my company isn't respected so sometimes customers treat employees bad. One told a worker they were a piece of s*** and to f*** off just because we didn"t have a certain DVD.Or that we don't deserve a break.

    1. oh man... sounds like you live in a similar place as I do.

      When I was working in retail, it sometimes seemed like some customers walk into a store just looking to get into a fight... I never understood that.

  5. Really agree with these points, especially #1. As that employee on minimum wage, despite a 4 year degree, it's funny, I just don't feel motivated to stay late after work! My boss has just complained because the legal minimum wage has just gone up here by 3 cents an hour, lol - yes, if he could pay me less he would!

    1. I can really relate to what you are saying. I've got a college diploma + some university... I worked through college and have worked every day since graduation. When I left my last job I was making just few dollars above minimum wage. Hardly seemed worth the debt and struggle of post-secondary education! That being said, I was grateful for what I was making since wages in my area are very low across the board.

      I am glad to hear that minimum wages are going up. Canada recently bumped their minimum wage up to $10.25, but that is still not enough to live on, raise a family, or have any sense of financial security.

      The topic of minimum wage really irks me! Especially when some people out there have so much and others have so little...

  6. Can we please be friends lol! I want to high five you after reading this. Completely agree. PS. I'm new to your blog, and your gorgeous lingerie makes me drool :)

    1. lol aw :) Thank you!

      Your blog is gorgeous by the way!


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