I have a customer service confession to make. Here it is: I am not that great at customer service. Phew, I feel so relieved!
I know…I know. I can be kind of hard on other people for their lack of customer service skills, but that’s because I’ve done it all, and I know how it should be done. But now…well…allow me to explain:
I own my own business (yay!) at which I sell lovely used clothing, books, toys and gear for babies, children, and mothers. Being self-employed after a bajillion years of working for other people and having to abide by their rules and regulations is absolutely refreshing and still exciting even after almost six years, and I highly recommend it…unless you care about things like ‘free time’ and ‘having money’, in which case, maybe you should think twice. Either way, here I am, running my little shop, Sprout.
I have a fairly casual, hands-off approach to customer service. I cannot stand being hovered over when I’m shopping, nor do I appreciate a fake welcome and any following tirade of information, such as “hi welcome to Sprout my name is Amanda and I’m happy to serve you all items with blue tags are half off and all items with yellow tags are 20% off and if you buy six items then you can take 37% off of one half of your total purchase today!” Bzzzzzzztt WHAT?! That stuff makes my head spin and I stop listening after ‘hi’ anyway so, seriously, don’t bother.
When you walk in to my store, I’ll say hello. I’ll also ask you if there’s anything I can help you find. If you say no, I’ll take your word for it because you are an adult and I have to assume you know how to use your words, and so I’ll leave you to your browsing. I may throw a “let me know if you have any questions or need help with anything” out there, just for good measure.
Sometimes while you’re shopping I am busying myself with tasks like pricing clothes, putting stickers
on bags, or balancing the checkbook (eeeeeee!). Sometimes – okay, often – I’m on the computer. What am I doing on that thing? Well, perhaps I’m blogging, like now. Or doing homework, also like now. Maybe I’m searching Craigslist for a house to rent. I could be checking my email. I could be googling how to make my phone stop doing that weird thing it does. Whatever – I’m just on the computer, okay?! (I once got a bad Yelp review because I was on the computer and my daughter was in her ‘helpful’ stage and so was being too invasive of the customer’s space. I totally get it, no hard feelings). My point is, I get my computer stuff taken care of primarily at work because I don’t have internet at home (unless the wifi from my neighbor four apartments down is being kind to me).
I make up for the fact that I’m not hanging on you with attention while you sort through socks with a few key things:
See that couch and ottoman up there? They are FILTHY! I blame Macy, of course. The funny thing is, bored dads and nursing mothers don’t really seem to mind. Even when I warn them before sitting down that it is covered in cat hair, they’re always like “meh, whatever, it’s cool.” My customers are the best. Also:
Perhaps the most important thing I have to offer, however, is this:
Now, to be fair, I guess I can occasionally be helpful-ish. For example, I can’t count how many times I’ve been on the phone with stores similar to mine on behalf of a customer, calling to inquire about whether said store has what said customer needs and which I don’t happen to have. I love my customers – even if they’ve never set foot in my store before – and I want them to find what they’re looking for! I’ve never been one of these cutthroat, competitive business people and I guess I’d simply prefer to help people by directing them elsewhere rather than shooing them away with no more information than they arrived with.
I’ll always take time out to show a new mother how to manage a Moby Wrap, or to listen sympathetically to a wide-eyed, shell-shocked new father about his wife’s cracked nipples as she struggles with breastfeeding. I am always honest about what I did and didn’t need when my kids were babies, and will never push a customer into buying something I think is a waste of money. If I think something is AMAZING I’ll certainly tell them I think so, but I know that my opinion is one out of many, and they are free to theirs…as is their sister-in-law, who insists they need that crazy newfangled contraption that they will literally never use. To each their own, people. To each their own.
While my customer service style can lean toward the somewhat lackadaisical, I think I’m doing an alright job. The fact that the people walking through my door tell me that they love my shop, or that they’ve been told by several friends to come check it out, makes me think my technique is working alright. So, until the next bad Yelp review kicks me off my stool here behind the counter, I think I’ll keep doing what I’m doing…
Sprout on Facebook
Sprout on Yelp (don’t be mean!)