Like a squirrel trying to dodge an oncoming car, I was scurrying up and down the aisles of a big home-improvement store looking for something, but I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere. My obvious confusion, though, seemed to mark me as a pariah among store employees. Everyone in an orange vest turned his back when he caught sight of me or, worse yet, pretended to be deaf as he burrowed in a bucket of screws.
Finally, in desperation, I stopped one orange-vested fellow and asked, a bit more insistently, for help. He wouldn’t look up from his task. Shrugging, he spat the answer out of the side of his mouth as if he were spitting tobacco. “If we have it, aisle 16.”
Shopping is no fun anymore. I’m hardly a demanding customer, I just needed a little help. But every single worker in that store was fuming with distaste for the customers strolling its aisles – and their managers didn’t seem to care. Something is clearly amiss.
Sure, I understand that there’s a category of customer who nags or berates employees without cause. Who is never satisfied. Who wants something for nothing. But as someone who owns three retail stores, I believe most customers are well-meaning. Some just need a little help: directions to a certain department, questions about a certain product, information about delivery.
Unfortunately, poor customer service is not just a problem for the big discount stores. It’s standard practice nowadays at the airport, the car dealership’s service center, the supermarket. The bartender and waiter are surly and inattentive. Pride in work seems to have vanished. Customers, the most vital cog in the machinery of capitalism, are the least valued these days.
I’m not buying the excuses we’ve all heard from the folks who run these companies. They complain they can’t get good help, nobody wants to work, or they pull out the all-purpose excuse for any kind of slipshod work: Covid, Covid, Covid.
As a business owner myself, I know poor service is an avalanche of poor attitude that starts at the top. Eager to increase profits, many companies are cutting back on staff knowing that customers will come anyway. Thus, they save money and boost the bottom line. If customers have to wait twenty minutes to check out or wander the aisles helplessly looking for a simple hex screw, these managers don’t care.
Because they don’t care, neither does the staff.
At Furniture Consignment Gallery, we have a different perspective. When you come into our stores, you will be greeted. We will remember your name. We will do everything we can to help you find what you need. We answer our phones when they ring -- promptly. We will follow up on your questions and we will call you back.
At FCG, we don’t have to train people to be nice and responsive. That’s our culture. We hire people who already know how to be helpful and responsive. We understand the most important lesson of business: we need and value our customers. Knowing that, we all come to work every day eager to make them happy.