This little rant is about customer service, how to and how not to.
Today I had to go to our local town to get a few things in advance of Wild West Days. Wild West Days is a lot of fun and is celebrated in an old western town with covered sidewalks and the like. It's neat. All I needed was a pen on a leash, that's it.
I went to the local office supply store where I rarely find anything I want in search of this pen on a leash. You know, like the pens they have in banks. I'd steal one of those, but they're on a leash. While I was at the office supply store wandering the aisles, a couple of gents walked in and, after finally distracting the clerk from her computer, asked if they did business cards.
She immediately turned around and rummaged through a card file, taking quite a bit of time. Finally she told the gentlemen about a business card order that's been pending since January. This is June, that's six months. Yikes. She wrote down the name and number of a good provider in the area and sent them on their merry way.
My issue with this is that she didn't acknowledge them after their question or tell them that she had a solution for them. Instead, she just sought out the solution. I would have asked if she had an answer - it seemed so rude that she hadn't acknowledged the question.
Nobody likes to be ignored. The solution, in my opinion, would have been to greet the gentlemen at the door when they came in since the cash register and computer are right there. I had already been wandering the aisles for some time looking for my pen on a leash. No luck, by the way.
In fact, I wanted to see how long it would be before she asked if I needed anything and I walked around looking at the mediocre inventory illuminated by poor lighting. Finally, another customer came in and wandered and went up to the counter and asked for help. She politely obliged and when she was done with telling him what he wanted wasn't in stock, I interrupted her beeline back to the computer to ask about what I came in for. They, of course, didn't have that, either.
I guess the biggest moral of this story is this. Our local office supply store stinks. The service is usually mediocre, though not always. The inventory is always mediocre. All it would take is someone with some marketing skills or a solid name, like Staples, to come up and that store would be closed within a month.
They have done nothing to earn my loyalty or admiration so I would immediately shop at the new place. I'm sure others would, too.
Large chain stores have the advantage of having huge advertising budgets and beautiful stores. As a small business the greatest thing we can offer is outstanding customer service. That's tough for the big boys to do because they have such a giant volume of employees to handle. What should our local office supply store do?
First and foremost, they should put some sort of request list there. If you see that lots of folks are asking for pens on leashes, then you should stock those.
Secondly, everybody should be greeted with a smile and a hello when they come in. Any small business that doesn't treat each customer like the valuable asset that they are is just asking to be put out of business by someone else.