I just returned from a trip to my local grocery store. The store manager, who has been with the company for thirty years, was at the front of the store greeting customers. The employees who have been working there for the past ten years smiled and said hello as I walked by them. Indeed, most of the people I encountered in the store were quite friendly and pleasant.
Then there were the more recently hired people who work at the store. I walked by one young man who has seen me at least two or three times per week for the past year that he has been working there. I said hello, as I do to everyone who works at the store as I walk the aisles. He responded with little more than a grunt and did not even bother to acknowledge me by looking at me to make eye contact. A few aisles later, a representative of a major beverage company was taking an inventory of his shelf space and completely disregarded my cheerful hello as I walked past him.
I realize that people who are working cannot get their jobs done if they are stopped every three minutes for a conversation, but people who work with the public have to be ready to at least be polite and friendly so that customers feel welcomed and appreciated. That is the most important task of every person who works in retail. Sadly, based on conversations with store managers, it grows ever more difficult to hire young people who have the social skills that retail requires.
Employees who lack social skills will stop me from going to a store. If I am going to offer my cash to a retail establishment, I want to offer it to people I like, even though I know that the money will be headed off to a large corporate parent that is not located in my community. If you own a retail establishment, however big or small, here are the five things that you should require of your employees to help ensure that you keep my business (and the business of anyone who thinks like me):
Be Friendly: A smile and a cheerful hello can very quickly make a patron forget about inconveniences experienced in a store. Cashiers can do their job and still exchange a few pleasantries.
Don’t Be Too Friendly: There is a cashier at my local grocery store who I have avoided for years. I am not alone because it seems that only tourists and newbies visit her checkout line. She shares inappropriate details about her life. She talks far too much and I don’t think any regular customers want to be caught in her conversations. If she were the only cashier, I would turn around and leave the store immediately.
Be Hygienic: Everyone gets coughs and colds but try not to emphasize that to customers, especially when handling their food products. Wiping the tip of one’s nose with a finger and then picking up my jar of olives in order to scan it is just a bit too gross for me.
Don’t Share Your Problems: When a customer asks how you are doing, you are always doing well. Remember that. Customers have their own problems and unless your customers are also your friends — your close friends — you do not need to dump your problems on them.
Be Knowledgeable: If you work at a store, take the time to learn about the merchandise, especially where it is located. Know what is on sale.
Offer to help customers who look confused: Employees are not ornamental. They are there to help customers and employees who do not know about the products sold will be of little help!
What do you look for in the employees of the stores in which you shop? If you work in a store, what frustrates you about your co-workers?