Tis the Season … For Poor Customer Service

The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” ~ Sam Walton

I hate to be the one to say it, Mr. Walton, but Walmart’s customer service is legendarily bad. The good news is, so is the customer service with just about every other big box retailer. Ahh, the joy of Christmas shopping. Over the past week I’ve done my annual gift buying and have really noticed just how bad customer service is, particularly at the retail level.

I find it really fascinating that customer service can be so bad when every big box retail corporation has as a major tenet of their philosophy, some reference to customer service. These same big box retailers have all invested millions of dollars into elaborate CRM (customer relations management) software and training programs. A few weeks ago at a Jeffrey Gitomer seminar, I heard Mr. Gitomer rail about what a waste of time and resources these CRM programs are, and after this most recent Holiday shopping season, I am inclined to agree with him 100%.

What’s really most amazing to me is the fact that giving good customer service really isn’t that difficult, and with major corporations giving so much focus and training on customer service, why is it that so many are totally missing the mark? I’m not even talking about “WOW, they really knocked my socks off with the customer service” customer service. I’m talking about, “the sales rep was helpful and polite and I will consider doing business with them again” customer service.

A few simple things I identified this past week while doing my Christmas shopping were:

            Apathy – a total disregard of willingness to help the customer. When my wife and I both went in for eye exams to the same Ophthalmologist we’ve gone to for years, the receptionist, whom I am sure won a Ms. Congeniality contest at some point, lied to us and said she had called our secondary insurance carrier and was told they don’t pay for eye exams. While in the waiting room, my wife called the same carrier that the receptionist claimed to have called and was told they do in fact cover eye exams. Of course, when she was called out on it, the customer service experience with Ms. Idontgiveadamn went from bad to worse. The truth is, she had plenty of time to talk on her cell phone on a personal call, but really couldn’t be bothered with doing her job. Had my wife not done her job for her, we would have paid an additional $45 each out of pocket. Nothing huge, but certainly enough to lose my business forever.

            Lack of knowledge – most often, customers seek out a sales rep for one reason only – they need the help of an expert; someone who can point them in the right direction, or at the very least – to help them find what they are looking for. At a local big box home improvement retailer, I was looking for a specific item and was told by not one but two different sales associates, “we no longer carry that.” I found the item later on my own.

            Lack of urgency – I told this story at my manager’s meeting last week about young Ted, a shift manager at a major office supply retailer. As I approached the check out (only one register open), I heard the young girl on her headset asking for one dollar bills. There was a gentleman at the register waiting for his change, a lady after him and I was 3rd in line. I had plenty of one dollar bills and was going to offer to make change for her but she had already made the call. Young Ted appeared and I have literally seen 90 year olds in nursing homes moving with more enthusiasm that Ted. After watching Ted take an eternity to walk the short distance to the last check out register to retrieve the safe key and slowly begin his return trip to the office room over in the corner, I noticed a display of 5 hour energy drinks on the counter and simply couldn’t contain myself.  “Hey Ted.” I asked after seeing his name tag, “if I buy you one of these 5 hour energy drinks, do you think you could get the lead out of your ass?” As I then turned to the lady in front of me to apologize for my use of language, before I could say another word she said, “I wish I had thought of saying that.” I then gave the girl at the register five ones, she gave the gentleman his change, checked out the lady in front of me (who wrote a check) and then processed my sale. I was walking out the door as Ted finally re-appeared from the office room.

Simply put, customers want 3 things. They want you to care about your job and about them, they want you to know your products, where they are and how to use them, and they want you to value their time. Is that really too much to ask for from a sales associate? Again, I’m not even talking about wowing your customers with knock your socks off service that is going to make them give referrals to all their friends, I’m just talking about basic customer service. If you can’t offer basic customer service, how will ever offer up the kind of customer service that really is legendary?


Monty Rainey is a District Manager working in the self storage industry since 1996 and currently overseeing 21 stores in the Austin & San Antonio, TX area. He is also a leadership coach and public speaker. For a free consultation, please contact Monty at 830-743-2139 or visit his website at http://www.montyrainey.com .


About montyrainey

Public Speaker and District Manager. Mission: To empower and inspire others professionally, personally and spiritually to elevate their lives to a higher level.
This entry was posted in Business, Business processs, Customer Service, Management, Referrals, Sales and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tis the Season … For Poor Customer Service

  1. Pingback: Competing Against Big Box Retailers with Word of Mouth « Rust Reviews, LLC, DBA IX Brand SEO Services Company | Online Reputation | Local SEO Consultant | Houston, TX

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