I had an interesting encounter with a customer today that got me thinking more about how I act in public. Our store’s custom is to call out a greeting to a customer as they enter to let them know we know they’re there and so that they know who to talk to with questions. We’ll then usually follow up with them personally within a few minutes to see if there is anything specific we can help them with. For 99% of our customers this is just fine.
For this gentleman it was not. I’m not sure what he was expecting, but he felt he was being ignored, and expressed his displeasure. I won’t debate right or wrong, because the maxim “the customer is right” is generally true. He had an expectation, and we didn’t meet it. And once we apologized he seemed eager to let it go. He was looking for something we obviously didn’t carry, and we directed him to several nearby stores that did.
But then he decided to stay and talk business with us for awhile, and immediately started to come across as a bit of a know-it-all, and implying that we hadn’t thought things through before making certain decisions. I can assure you (and him) that on the point he raised we deliberated longer and harder than any other decision we made. We knew the risks and the benefits of our decision, and have worked quite hard to mitigate the shortcomings.
It also came out in during the discussion that I’d met this man before, though I don’t think he recognized me. He’d come to my door recently selling a book he’d written. I couldn’t buy the book at the time, but had been impressed enough that I have been considering interviewing him for this blog, and perhaps buying a copy of his book some day. But after our encounter today I’m reconsidering. Just as much as he’d caught my interested then, he’d turned me off today. I know he was trying to be helpful, but it came out wrong. And I admit, I was still defensive over his earlier rebuke.
But there is still a warning for us all, here. Store clerks and salesmen are so ubiquitous in our lives that it’s easy to think of them as not existing outside the stores they serve. It’s easy to be the type of customer to them that you hate to get yourself, assuming you’ll never see them again. Be a gracious customer. Be polite, undemanding (not to be confused with wishy-washy, mind you), and appreciative. Leave everyone in the store with a positive image of you.
You never know when the tables may be turned.
Anyone else experience this sort of thing from either side? Tell me about it in the comments!