Leslie Cook

The Sad State of Customer Service

In In My Opinion... on June 25, 2009 at 4:03 am

I just returned from my regular Wednesday “Dinner and Shopping with Mom” trip.  As part of our visit, we had to return an item to Marshalls, a low-end discount department store.  My mom loves it because she can buy odds and ends for less and because it’s a bit like a rummage sale.  I hate it because it tends to be unorganized and messy.

As we stood in line with 10 other people, we both observed how rude and, frankly, uninvolved the cashiers and floor staff appeared to be.  I suppose business is good there, since there were several people with baskets full of clothing.  As time passed, I also observed that there were really only two people actively cashiering.  One person, who I assumed was the manager, worked as cashier for 2 transactions then, without any comment to anyone in line or any of the other cashiers, proceeded to organize the front desk.  Keep in mind that the line was still long, there were about 8 people patiently (and not so patiently) waiting and the two working cashiers were still working on the customers with tons of items.  As this was happening, 3 or 4 other employees wandered in and out of the cashier area, randomly holding conversations with the working cashiers and the man I assumed to be their manager.  No one addressed the increasingly angry customers waiting in line.

During our 15-20 minute wait, I witnessed a customer mumbling under her breath and literally throwing the clothing she was planning to buy into a random stack.  This woman stormed out of the store.  The patient woman behind us commented on how well they were ignoring us.  Her comment?  “They could at least acknowledge that we’re here, apologize for the line and say they’d be with us as soon as possible.”  The woman was right.  It really wouldn’t have taken that much effort to calm down the irate customers.  Simple acknowledgement would have done wonders.

While I was waiting, I contemplated the sad state of customer service and how, with a little effort, customers could be placated and loyalty built.  As it stands, my mom won’t be shopping at this store anytime soon.  I also will not spend money there.  I’m sure the women behind me and the lady that discarded her items and left in a huff will not come back.  So, because of their behavior, at least 4 people will be reluctant to purchase things in their store.  That’s not something most stores want to encourage during a recession.

What’s the solution?  Possibly a little training for customer-facing staff would do the trick.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  A half-hour would do.  This would at least make the staff aware that their customers don’t like standing in line and being ignored.

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