Saturday, 17 October 2015

STOP. DROP. SERVE. When the 'Customer Experience' forgets about the Customer.

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Earlier this week I came across my original typed copy of the 100+ page customer service training manual that I wrote for Liz Earle 10 years ago when I was their National Sales Manager*. If I say so myself, it's bloody good.
So admittedly, customer service has been at the forefront of my mind this week and yes I have high standards and yes I spot everything. Just putting that out there.

The Mr and I went into Debenhams on Thursday. This was one of the worst shopping/customer service experiences I've ever had. We've ever had.
Suffice to say it involved marching across the entire length of the shop floor to find someone that could actually serve us, almost begging them to take money off of us, card machines not working and us getting 'sighs' from staff who assumed we had simply overspent and were being declined.
For overseas readers - the UK has just introduced the 5p plastic carrier bag charge - when the transaction was completed the assistant pushed the products across the counter towards me and said nothing. No offer of a bag, no thanks, just pushed the products towards me and stood there.
The beauty department was full of people not being till-trained, people not being anything-trained and just a general, across-the-board lack of interest or caring towards the customer.
We, along with other customers sharing our exasperation, were treated as a mere inconvenience, something to be tolerated while the staff got on with the more important job of standing around and talking to each other.**
As we were leaving, we overheard another customer saying 'Excuse me, can anyone help me?', resulting in Jim and I both spontaneously shouting 'YEAH. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!' whilst she nodded at us with a knowing look of 'UNBELIEVABLE.'.

It went on and on:
HMV - we had to ask for someone to serve us at the till. Everyone was on the shop floor stocking up, no-one was watching the tills.
Sports Direct - where customer service goes to die. Never again. I'd rather spend more money elsewhere and keep my blood pressure at a healthy level.

Yesterday I had a lunch booked in the Ham Yard Hotel. I approached the desk in the restaurant where a young girl said - and I quote: 'Yes, you're the first to arrive. Just to let you know we need the table back in two hours.' I said 'Is it alright if I sit down first?'
Had it not been a business lunch I would've responded with 'Tell you what, you can have it now, I'm off.'

Where does all this crappy attitude towards the paying customer come from??

Two things you must do in the service/hospitality industry:
Look after your staff. 
Serve your customer's needs, not your shareholders.
An unhappy staff member is not going to take care of your customers.

'Enhancing the customer experience' should be about exactly that. Not 'enhancing your profits'.
That. Is. IT.

One of my friends on twitter reminded me of the old shop floor mantra of what to do if you are otherwise engaged/stocking shelves when a customer enters your store/dept/domain:

Stop. Drop. Serve.

Where is the customer service training these days?
My theory?
Retailers/brands and restaurants are paying as low a salary as possible, usually to young kids, and putting people on zero hours contracts to save money for shareholders.
They have little or no experience, zero to none training, and subsequently, for the most part, 'could care less' attitudes.
Older, more experienced, qualified people are more expensive. And they don't want zero hours. They want a commitment from their employer. It is not uncommon to have only the manager as an actual 'full time contracted' employee and everyone underneath them on zero hours.

Shareholders and 'the board' need to wake up. An unhappy team makes an unhappy customer.
And an unhappy customer takes their business elsewhere. In an economic climate where people are shopping more and more online and stores on high streets are sadly closing down at an unprecedented level, you have to offer real, tangible, excellent, knowledgeable customer service to keep your customers coming back.
To walk into a restaurant and be told 'You're on the clock', before you have even sat down, is outrageous. Take your head out of your arse and welcome your customers properly.

That 'inconvenience' of a person in front of you pays your wages. It's that simple.

There were and are exceptions.

Lush - Four staff on the shop floor on a quiet Thursday morning. One of them singing. No pushiness, just people going about their work and making it obvious if you needed something, they were there.
They worked together as a team. One young girl showed me what I had asked for, another mentioned that I 'might like this if you're getting that' - and I did - and bought that too. Anticipating that I would be waiting as there was one woman already being served by the one till open, a young male sales assistant sprinted from the front of the shop to the back and was behind the till waiting for me as I approached. I mean he ran.
Adidas - they didn't have our sizes available, and explained that they could get them from their external stockroom but that it would take 10 minutes - and apologised profusely for the inconvenience.
Liberty - always on the ball. Cannot do enough for you.
The Body Shop - noticeably appreciate their customers and listen to their needs.
Sainsbury's - the level of service at Sainsbury's at our local branch is so superior to their local competition that they blow them out of the window.
They are ALL OVER customer service.

Please don't mistake me for being a hard-to-please diva. I'm the first person to show empathy to a waiter/sales assistant having a bad day/struggling to get their job done. I know all the challenges of working double shifts, no stock, horrible customers etc etc  I've been there. With bells on.
I always make an effort to compliment great team members to management and praise them on social media.

But I know that I am not alone from how quickly my twitter timeline went into meltdown with people having similar experiences.
I just sense that the times have changed and the customer, once king, is now all too frequently an afterthought.
The customer is not always right. But the customer is always the customer.

Online retailers must be laughing all the way to the bank.


*this is my 31st year in retail, the latter years were in senior management/director level before I started my consultancy and I've written training manuals in customer service for huge brands - I know customer service.

**As soon as we left I tweeted about the appalling service and lack of training/bad attitudes of the staff tagging Debenhams. They have since emailed me for further information, which I appreciate. (I'm not interested in naming particular brands/girls involved, they need training, not shaming. I've replied to Debenhams privately but will definitely keep you posted with any followups.) 

110 comments:

  1. My two jobs in retail were for two very customer oriented companies, Lush (who you've mentioned) and White Stuff so when I'm shopping in town, I am always astounded by the lack of customer service. It's really down to how the staff are treated because like you said, if you don't care about your staff, how do you expect them to care about the customer?

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  2. Just that! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ Very well said. After working in retail for about 8years now (in the Netherlands) I see the same happening here. When saying "Good Morning" is too much, people shoudn't be working in retail.
    I like to think of the customer as someone I'd love to talk to. It makes such a difference to everyone in the process.

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    1. Me too. I enjoy it. Even the idiots! LOL

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  3. I couldn't agree more... I'm a full time student in London and work part time to support myself. Used to work in hospitality, but hated it for not physically being able to provide good customer service! When you're paid a meagre £5.53 and expected to wait on 20+ tables, but aren't told until the week before when that will be, it's quite hard to remain motivated! I now work for a regional branch of Whistles and the experience could not be more different. My manager is so hot on CS, and making sure that everyone works as a team to ensure that the customer is well-informed and, most importantly, comfortable.

    CS isn't easy, as many people seem to think it is, but it is easy to get wrong...

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    1. Exactly. It isn't easy but it can BE great fun x

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  4. I always find it very hard to get served in Debenhams. They often don't have anyone near their counters let alone serving on the tills. If I can buy something they stock elsewhere then I tend to just go to the other shop.

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  5. I'm pleased to say I have recently received decent (not superlative but certainly not as described above) service at Debenhams in Bristol. You're right about lush and the body shop though, even when there's only one member of staff visible they have been cheerful and helpful. Also space NK, Clarks and the white company deserve honorable mentions. I do just leave places now if their people aren't on it. Especially restaurants who don't notice you standing by the "wait here to be seated" sign for a good 5 minutes. Blood: boiling.

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  6. There´s something I´d like to add. Samples are something to really top off good customer service. Lately I´ve been noticing that retailers just don´t care about this anymore - at least here in Germany. I just bought Dermalogica´s Gentle Cream Exfoliant. Such a lovely product and I was so keen to try it. It cost me about 50 € and the sales person just handed it over to me. No bag. No samples.
    Also I do think part of it is that sales persons in the luxury beauty industry have such have such a bad attitude towards young girls (I´m sorry but that´s my experience- Mac, Lauder... you name it). I always get that Are-you-sure-you-want-to-buy this-look. YES otherwise I would have left ten minutes ago when you didn´t "notice" me.

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    1. Yes! I get this! Make up is my one indulgence but when I go to a department store I leave with the worst feeling. No samples. SO MEASLY I'm not buying a foundation or expensive serum with out trying it at home. Sorry but I'm not letting a hideously made up person re-do my make up for me. No way. When I get samples I always fine new products I want to buy. Why don't make up and skin care retailers realise this?!?! So annoying. In Melbourne we have Myer and David Jones both have terrible CS in the beauty dept. I go to Mecca where they are much nicer to deal with.

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  7. There´s something I´d like to add. Samples are something to really top off good customer service. Lately I´ve been noticing that retailers just don´t care about this anymore - at least here in Germany. I just bought Dermalogica´s Gentle Cream Exfoliant. Such a lovely product and I was so keen to try it. It cost me about 50 € and the sales person just handed it over to me. No bag. No samples.
    Also I do think part of it is that sales persons in the luxury beauty industry have such have such a bad attitude towards young girls (I´m sorry but that´s my experience- Mac, Lauder... you name it). I always get that Are-you-sure-you-want-to-buy this-look. YES otherwise I would have left ten minutes ago when you didn´t "notice" me.

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  8. Singapore airport Chanel counter. The lady didn't even make eye contact with me never mind smile. All she said during the transaction was 'card', well it was more of a bark. I just stared at her in disbelief at this shocking customer service when I am willingly giving my money for the privilege of it! In hindsight I should have immediately asked for a refund & took my business elsewhere.

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    1. Email Chanel and complain! Outrageous behaviour!

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  9. A very interesting article; however, yes CA 's are dropping off the sales floors in huge numbers but don't assume we don't care. I do understand that the customer does payment wage.
    The other point is that it is not anyone's right to walk into a shop and think that because they are having a shIt day that they are allowed to treat a CA like they are less than human.
    I had a career for 24 years and decided to go into retail as I mistakenly believed it was a job with no pressures. How wrong I was and I cannot believe how people dare to speak To CA's.
    Believe me, you do get great service from me and my colleagues if you ask politely and smile. It's simple jesters which are powerful.
    Great article Caroline and you wasn' t referring to you personally. It was you, the general public.
    I'm sorry you'd bad service and no I Don't work for Debenham but a similar department store.

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  10. Aaaaammenn. Having worked in food service + retail for many years throughout high school and university, I am nothing but sympathetic to employees simply having a bad or busy day and dealing with crap customers who think you can move heaven and earth for them - but I am SO over feeling like being a paying customer is an "inconvenience". I understand the issue with people at restaurants sitting at their table for hours on end since I used to work as a restaurant hostess, but being told I need to hurry up before I sit down is infuriating - especially when it's for a special occasion or just a more expensive meal.

    PS - Since I don't always like to be a negative Nancy, in addition to your list which I agree with - I'll shout out that the ladies at Park St. Space NK in Bristol are impeccable, as are the employees at the Jo Malone in the House of Fraser near Cabot Circus.

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    1. That was the Space NK I had in my head when I wrote my comment above! They are super nice. Jo Malone and Space NK in Harvey Nicks in Cabot are lovely too.

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    2. Elle... Totally support your appraisal of the Space NK Team on Park St Bristol. They cannot do enough and know their stuff...

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    3. Oops - meant Harvey Nick's near Cabot, House of Fraser doesn't have the Jo Malone stand haha! But yes, Space NK Park St. ladies are always on point from the door to the till.

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  11. I get that staff need the right training but regardless of what salary someone is on, surely it's their general work ethic and attitude to their fellow man in general that dictates how they would treat a customer in a shop they were employed to serve in. That starts with parenting and schooling and generally being a decent person. Well said on every front Caroline xx

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  12. OMG Caroline!!! You've hit the nail on the head, I actually hate shopping in store, I thought it waa just me, they are always extremely rude, dismissive or pretend I'm invisible. (I've worked in retail and used to be s secret shopper), I've actually walked into a store where staff continued to have their private conversation & ignore me (not even a hello), someone else walked in, they stopped talking & acknowledged her immediately, I immediately walked out. It's inexcusable.

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  13. I do the occasional beauty agency work where I will go on the shop floor to cover counters when they need it. Unless you are already till-trained the agency and store you are working for (including Debenhams!) won't train you so. This is so frustrating when trying to close a sale and when it's busy but you can't serve. Also there is no training on how to deal with customers it's just a case of get on with it... sell. Fortunately for me I've been brought up to be polite and so know how to speak to customers but sometimes it's shocking how you hear others being spoken to and how I've been spoken to myself. So terrible when at the till they give you no communication and don't even say thankyou! Yet they have plenty of time to talk with their mates....

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  14. No matter which location I've been to, all over California, I am always impressed by the customer service at Lush. They are always so personable and helpful. It's one of the many reasons why I go back there time and time again.
    In the states a company that stands out for customer service in my experience is Nordstrom's. I've started shopping there instead of Sephora for more expensive makeup and skincare just because the service is so much better and the atmosphere is more relaxing. But in every department, from shoes to clothes, they've always been really attentive and obliging. It's clearly an important core value for that company, and it's not like that at any other major department store here in the states.
    People who have never worked retail/service jobs really have no idea how difficult it can be. But just because customers can be morons, that doesn't mean we have to be, too.

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    1. In general, I like Sephora (as well as Nordstroms, whose customer service cannot be beat) and receive good service there. However, when shopping at Sephora recently, I asked for Sunday Riley. The staff person had never heard of Sunday Riley (and this was a person working the skin care area of the store). Can you imagine? I will not go back to that particular store but will order online instead.

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  15. I can so relate to all of these. I was in Boots in Manchester at the Dior counter and the girl didnt even acknowledge me even though Id been there a good ten minutes. If shed have raised her eyebrows or smiled I would have been fine but after ten minutes I was not moving! I do a really good line in nostril flaring :-) The store manager spotted me and my nostrils and raced over.to serve me. She tried saying oh shes busy etc. What utter rubbish, a smile would have done x

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  16. YUP! Nailed it as per usual Caroline. Did I mention you nailed it , YUP!

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  17. Totally agree about attitude. Spent my life working in retail and then hospitality, I know thing or too about balencing labour costs with Customer service. The team in place are everything.
    I live in two homes. Both have a Space NK. Thank you Birmingham, you've given me great advice in the past. No thank you Bournemouth, when I actually have some time (weekend) there is zero chance of getting help or attention here. Ignored again today. I had a glance sent my way when I eventually stood in line at the till (after circling and circling) but no acknowledgment, and certainly no communication. I used about a tenners worth of Sunday Riley serum tester on my hands whilst whiling away the time......I was bored more than anything. And then I left. Came home and bought the Zelens pads and serum I need from lookfantastic.com. No one spoke to me there either, but I wasn't ignored and wasn't left wondering why, I was given 15% off, free postage and some beauty bag worth 50 quid!

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  18. Haha, I love that you managed to write a 100+ pages on customer service! You are the Emily Post of the customer service world, I am sure!

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  19. Come shopping in Australia ;-) argh. Trying to get help is like pulling teeth. Im unsure if the UK is like Aus and sales people just get their set wages and that's it, but I found shopping in the US to be awesome for customers service. Probably because they get commission. Not that it's any excuse....
    The Beauty Bloss

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  20. Retail warrior here. Had an epic experience at the Nars counter at Saks in New Orleans by a brand representative. I brought a girl afraid of makeup to buy her first concealer. She was kind and educational and took the time to give her exactly what she wanted. The Saks employee was dismissive and snide when we explained that we were combining our purchases for the bonus (we're not well off and saved up to join forces). The Nars rep snuck some sample sets in our bag with a wink. It was the epic example of how to build brand loyalty and taught my girl what kind of service she deserved. I'm currently working for a specialty company that charges a fee for restock if customers don't follow our recommendations (!). It's a revelation - we talk people through each step, we're open 7 days and they have to make the choice to let us take care of them or not. I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but I know I've tried my hardest to get the best product to them. I dig it.

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  21. I say we just vote with our pounds/dollars/euros etc. Once my shipment from Sephora got lost on the way. It took two e-mails and a call to the Customer Service to have it sent to me again, and I apparently had to witness the whole reshipping process (10 minutes? for no reason?) over the phone - clearly "we're on it, ma'am" would not be enough. Additionally, during the process I somehow lost my special client status that I have just acquired after spending $350 at Sephora in one year.

    Needless to say, I haven't shopped at Sephora since. There are many other stores in the US with fantastic customer service that I'm willing to support with my hard-earned grad school bucks, thank you very much!

    (To be completely fair, I might also have been affected by the choice of "hold on caller" music at their customer service line. It took a good few hours of old-school U2 to restore me and my ears to the original state after that.)

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  22. I too have also had a bad experience with staff in Debenhams but many years ago (around 23) I worked for them and they were big on customer service and dropping everything for the customer, not ever answering the phone if there was a queue etc etc but it is nothing like that now, also recently in Primark I was looking for a top in another size and found a sales assistant and said "excuse me please do you have this in a size 16?" and she said and I quote "I don't know" and then just walked away, I couldn't believe it!! I have had excellent customer service from Lush and New Look but with online shopping, both went above and beyond but it's a shame to say it's a very rare thing now if we get good service. Great post as always xxx

    Zoe ♥ MammafulZo

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  23. Hate shitty CS, having worked in Pubs/Clubs/Shops/Holiday camps it is my one pet peeve and even online it can be crap see here..........https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffgV8cNmyn0

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  24. I used to work in Topshop and always really enjoyed greeting and interacting with customers and prided myself in being very natural and polite. However, the managers tried to cut down on money by having hardly ANY staff on the floor. Instead of employing around 10 employees on full time contracts (it wasn't a huge store), there was about 25 employees all on 4 hour contracts, most of those employees were college students just working on the weekends. During the week, there was only normally 3 staff members on the floor, one being myself. I personally was expected to serve on the till, greet EVERY customer, tidy, prevent shoplifting AND process deliveries from behind the till (while the manager sat in the office doing 'paperwork'..). I would often be serving a customer at the till and would see a customer wondering around the front of the store looking confused and in need of help and I used to feel really bad that I wasn't able to help them. Customers were always complaining to me at the till that they couldn't find anyone to help them and took it out on all us staff.The store has really gone downhill the last couple of years because of this. It's a shame because all of the girls that worked there were so excited about getting a job at Topshop, and really enjoyed helping customers and serving on the till, but now they all hate it because of the customer complaints they have to deal with about there being no staff!

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  25. Very true. We suffer from the same poor service here in the US. It is truly an epidemic.

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  26. Also, I am currently living in America and shopping here drives me insane. The sales assistants are SO pushy and robotic, this is mainly in department stores. Staff literally walk out in front of you and hold products in your face. Most of the time when I am in a department store, I actually pretend to be on the phone!! When I am browsing the beauty counters, it't the usual 'What can I help you with today?', I politely say I'm just browsing and then it's something along the lines of 'If you purchase this today it's 30% off this!' and then 'Are you sure you don't need help?' ARGH it's so annoying. I don't want to be rude to them because I know commission is much more of a thing in America than it is in England but it has completely put me off the department stores. I think to be asked once if you need help is appreciated, and for them to let you know they are there if they need you is great. But that is enough. Space NK and Sephora are great for this.

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  27. How about bad retail management stories. I was hired as a cashier for a brand new ULTA store here in the states. We went through a ton of training on customer service, explaining the different aspects of skincare, haircare, makeup etc... So a couple weeks after the store officially opens up, our store manager briefly mentions to all of us that we may not be working as much with no explanation of what that meant. I thought that was a little weird because it was right before Thanksgiving and the "Black Friday"/Christmas shopping madness. So I check my schedule for the week of Thanksgiving and I wasn't on the schedule at all, and I was excited that I didn't have to work Black Friday. Kept checking the schedule weekly for a few more weeks, and I wasn't on it. My boss didn't think to pull me and the other employees aside and tell us that they over-hired and we would be let go. It's not that hard. Not like they were straight up firing us for screwing up badly or stealing. Treat your employees with dignity and respect.

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  28. Have you tried going into MAC in Selfridges Oxford Street? Unbelievable. It's chaos. Loads of customers but also lots of staff standing around NOT greeting or helping customers. It's almost as if the staff don't want you to buy from them. I can't be the only one to have noticed this. On the other hand, the people at Clinique Selfridges were lovely the last couple of times I was there. BTW, I know retail is tough, really tough - I worked for years in Camden Lock and it was horrific sometimes. Staff need much higher wages, better conditions, good long-term contracts (including sick pay, holiday, pensions) and lots of training.

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  29. Hi, I loved reading your post and all the replies. I used to accept rubbish customer service in the UK until I went to North America. There I was blown away by their completely different attitude. The staff in every shop went our of their way to serve and be seen to serve. They treated their job as if it was a worthwhile, honourable profession -which it is. I was amazed. Even in Wal-Mart they were on it. Happy and outgoing as if they were on a stage playing to their public. I loved it.
    I think all British businesses should look at the US as the benchmark. Let them teach underperforming places here how to serve. Would love to see a job-swap project between UK and USA and see the results. Would make a good TV prog!!!

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  30. I'm so glad you posted this. I've been ranting on SHBF about BB. I emailed at one point to complain & never heard back x

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  31. Yuck, hate shopping in store, much rather online. Oh and here in Scotland we've had the 5p carrier bag thing for years, as have Wales & Ireland, its just England who are getting their knickers in a twist with it. ;)

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    1. We'd be lucky if it was 5p! It's 22c here in Ireland…

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  32. Perfect!! I now walk away from counters and stores that ignore me- I just think of the scene in Pretty Woman with the 'you work on commission, huge mistake' speech. Particularly if you don't look the 'part'- Jigsaw is a prime offender so I don't shop there anymore. Space NK always good, John Lewis of course, although last week I was in Liberty and ignored at the Bobbi Brown counter, so spent my cash elsewhere. In the social media age, companies should be on top of good customer service as it only takes a public tweet to draw attention to poor service. You should do a TED talk on it Lady Hirons!!!

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  33. Amen. As an American living in London, I seriously was starting to think British people just hate me the second I speak, or ignore me because they think I am tourist. I am not a tourist, I am in fact a tax paying full-on visa holding resident of the UK. If I hadn't lived in another country (Germany), I would just think it's a London/UK thing. But I really think it's a European thing. IN America, try walking through Target. They are so damn helpful it's actually annoying, you can't walk past any Team Member without them asking if you need something. When I would walk into the bank, at least 2 people would greet me with hellos and how can I help you. At the grocery, they bag your groceries with a smile, and ask you how your day is going. Here, I shop online as much as possible because I just can't deal with the way people treat me. I had a horrible experience yesterday at a cafe, where the handless mug they served my child's hot chocolate in was so hot she couldn't pick it up. I had the gall to ask for a paper cup to put it in. The attitude I received was inexcusable, and I find that in a lot places. Not everywhere treats the customer like they can't be bothered but enough in my experience that I can't wait to go spend my Christmas holidays back home in America, where they do believe in actually serving the customer with a smile.

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  34. Bad customer service always makes me think of the line from Ab Fab where Eddie says to the woman working in the art gallery, "You can drop the attitude, you only work in a shop you know!"

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  35. Great post. Living in Paris for over 30 years I've got used to atrocious CS but it still annoys the hell out of me. Even some of the M&S stores here suffer from bad attitude from staff. The M&S Paris food shops give great service, but the out of town larger stores don't seem to have had the same training. Body Shop is great in France, it seems to be the French boutiques and department stores that don't prioritise CS. ps as a Scot I've had to pay plastic bag charges for a while, it's just England that has recently introduced this

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  36. I'm so happy to read someone calling out bad customer service who actually *knows* how and why it happens! I'm a retail manager (at Lush) with a team of mostly young people and you know the astonishing way that we help them to give a great customer experience? Exactly what you said; we value them. We pay London Living Wage, we have no zero hours contracts and we give them constant training, support and feedback so that they actually feel like they are getting something other than money from their job and so that they understand that the retail staff are the *most* important people in the company, not the bottom of the pile. Rocket science! oh wait, it's not :) . I'd love, by the way, to share this with the manager of that team - was it White City?

    I don't ever want to excuse bad customer service, because there's no need for it to happen, but I've always found that the attitude of any store filters down from the manager. If the service is bad I always scan the floor for whoever's in charge, if they are also doing a terrible job, or if I can't even tell who the manager is, then a quick email to customer care about how they are running their store and developing their people will make more of a change than complaining *to* them about one of their team.

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  37. There's just so much choice these days to have to put up with bad service. Dreadful experience at Space NK in Bournemouth yesterday (as usual) meant I just gave up the wait for acknowledgement of my existence. Came home, bought all my Zelens from lookfantastic.com. I didn't get to speak to anyone there either! But I wasn't kind of visiting them expecting to, (plus they gave me 15% off and a free 'beauty bag' worth 50 quid :).
    I can get so much advice from the internet that being ignored when trying to check a few things out so I can spend my couple of hundred £ wisely just won't cut it.

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  38. Once again, YES! so many places, so many times. Maybe all retailers should have a good old read of this and do some thinking in the naughty corner...

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  39. Caroline, you could not have said it better! I really do hope these brands take notice and come knocking on your door for your professional help. I used to work for a well-known spa brand in marketing, we'd do everything to get new customers through the door but once the customers had been they'd go running out the other door never to return because of the customer experience, poor staff moral, non-existent training and management focus on the profit & loss. It was heart-breaking that the business just did not get it! Needless to say, I ran out the door and never looked back!

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  40. I know exactly what you are saying. Having worked zero hour contracts for two year you just need to be a REALLY optimistic person if you want to keep finding the lust to get to work. You bosses sure won't appreciate your hard work, so you must hope the customer will. However, they are usually really rude when you are trying to help them and your boss keeps pushing to "get the sale". Sometimes it's just impossible to do well.

    Too often customers don't want your help and you boss insists you just sorta hover around them in the hopes they ask you anything that might trigger a sale. I was shoo-ed away soooooo much. :(

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  41. Yes!! Being from New York and living in the UK for 4 years now, this is a constant topic of discussion for me. The lack of customer service in some areas here is appalling! I think part of the problem, and I may be speaking out of turn here so I apologize in advance, but I feel the majority of the English people accept this lack of service that they deserve. I appreciate sometimes us 'Muricans are a bit OTT and loud, but, we don't take poor service lightly. There are far too many competitors and places of business I can take my hard earned money to and it's time businesses understand this. The customer is paying for a product which includes a kind and attentive service and I truly feel better training and evaluation of the workers is needed, from shop workers to restaurant employees to receptionists at my GP, the attitude of some workers is just incredible!

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  42. I love starting my Sunday with a snort of approval and a good chuckle. Spot on article Mrs H.

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  43. I completely agree, I have always hated Debehams, when I was at university I always had to go as I was never in to get my products delivered, but now I can get things delivered at work I am always getting my products on feelunique and amazon, I feel anywhere in London there are so many people and mess that the stores are extremely understaffed and cannot handle the amount of people, so you are left to wait in huge queues and jump over fallen boxes of mascara before you get to the till. I agree with you that reasons like this is why so many people are going online, I love shopping in real life, but it has become a chore instead of something I love... :( Great post! xxx

    www.vihsee.blogspot.co.uk

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  44. I experienced the same thing in Debenhams last year, twice! I bought a pair of tights both times, and first I had to wait a long time for anyone to help me because they were talking to each other behind the till, then I got the tights shoved towards me. I stood there expecting a bag or at least the question, seeing how tights get damaged easily but no! Shocked.
    When I used to work retail in uni, I was always taught to run to the till if no one was there yet and to always go above and beyond to find things and refund things and answer questions.

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  45. I am so with you, and this is not just in the UK unfortunately! It is the main reason I sometimes prefer buying online but I do love visiting shops and browsing through isles.

    Xx
    Cheryl
    Daisy Candle

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  46. This post is one of the best and truest I have ever read anywhere! Service or rather non-service is so dreadful in so many places now that I am absolutely stunned and ridiculously delighted on the rare occasion I find someone who is helpful. Thank you for such a brilliant feature which I wish everyone in the so-called service industries could read.

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  47. Mac counter at Macy's Castleton Indianapolis are horrible - not one person greets you or wants you to even buy anything from there. And god forbid you are a woman of color they look at you as if you do not have any money to buy stuff. Sisley's counter at Saks Fifth Avenue, Keystone at the crossing, Indianapolis has not one soul waiting to help you. I was there wanting to buy 2 masks worth $200 and more and I had to wait for 20 minutes!!

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    Replies
    1. I live on the south side of Indy but shop on the north side frequently. As far as department stores are concerned, I usually avoid them like the plague. The best store for cosmetics is Sephora in Greenwood. Great customer service always!

      Delete
  48. I tell you what Caroline- it sends me straight to the Internet.

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  49. I tell you what Caroline- it send me straight to the Internet for my shopping. Lush is doing very well these days because it makes customers feel great- and the feeling continues to using the products. Haven't been to Debenhams in donkeys years, I don't really see the point in it- and I live in Belfast where there is no John Lewis...
    As always, spot on 😚

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  50. Amen to that. I also make sure I let staff know when I have had a particularly good experience. My bad experience was with Space NK....I was told by a member of staff that they did mail order. I rang up to mail order an item that I had been on a waiting list for. I was told that not only was I not on the waiting list but that Space NK don't do mail order. My frustration wasn't with that but with the response I got from the staff who said that I must of been speaking to an alien previously because all staff are trained in Space NK policies and would know that they don't do mail order! That was the response from the manager!

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  51. My train of thought is this. Good customer service/support counts for 90% of your experience. I will 'not' give my custom to a company that does not treat either their staff well or their customers, and yes I have worked retail over the years and know how hard a job that can be. Having a bad day at work doesn't excuse treating your customers with anything less than the respect that they deserve. When I replaced my laptop I bought a Dell, based almost purely on the quality of the customer service I'd received when dealing with them about my daughter's laptop issues. It's simple, if I don't get the customer service I expect I won't use that company again. I think this is why Richard Branson is so admired, his philosophy is just as you said, keep your staff happy and you keep everyone happy.

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  52. It frustrates me so much when customer service is just downright awful. I'm 18 and when I'm shopping, I ALWAYS try to stay cheery and polite to workers as 1. I've waitressed for 2 years and have encountered minimum pay/rude customers/rude coworkers/working with a splitting headache and I know it's a lot easier when customers are understanding. 2. As a young person, I feel there is no need to give people any more reason to blame everything on those darn immoral, rude and lazy young people. I often wonder if the slip in customer service is due to the awful job market and many of the workers not actually wanting to be there?

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  53. I gave up on Debenhams when I bought a boxed eye shadow palette from a manned counter, got it home and found it had been opened and used. Went back, swooped it, but the person I spoke too wasn't that bothered. A nice apology and a few samples would have worked wonders.

    The other thing that drives me nuts is ageist beauty counter staff. Charlotte Tilbury's lot are terrible. I've stood there for ages being blanked whilst holding products in my hand, then watched them rush towards some 20 something in packs. No money for you!

    I love my local John Lewis and House of Fraser. And I was well impressed with the woman who used to work at Laura Mercier who remembered me went I wandered into the Burberry shop at Covent Garden.

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  54. Where is Mary Portas!? She used to be shit hot on this kind of thing!
    Completely agree. Went into Chester today, as usual brilliant service in Lush. Even though I already knew what I wanted the staff member was still super friendly, not over bearing and genuinely seemed happy to help and enthusiastic about the brand they work for.
    Went into Debenhams and was a completely different story. Went to ask a staff member a question about when/if MUFE will be arriving in stores and had to wait while her and her colleagues finished chatting (not work related or helping a customer, I could understand that) and when I did ask I was rudely told she had never heard of it and therefore didn't know, then back to the chatting. Well excuse me for BREATHING.
    On to the MAC counter in Debenhams, found the lipstick I was after myself and queued up to get it, turns out it isn't in stock at the moment which is fair enough. I asked the staff member if they could recommend a similar one and instead she handed the tester back to me and said 'well if you go and look at all the lipsticks you'll probably find one the same.' ....off she went and off I bloody went, legging it out of the shop. If they don't want my hard earned cash that's fine. I went to Space NK and had a pay day splurge in there, with great service.
    To me if i'm spending a lot of money somewhere or treating myself, the service I get is part of that. Like someone has said above I am genuinely suprised and delighted if I get good service somewhere when it should be the norm.
    When it comes to rudeness or sales assistants being pushy, personally I have no issue saying no or giving my opinion but I really feel sorry for the customers who either don't have the confidence to object or trust in the sales assistant's opinion when they clearly don't care, only interested in another sale rather than the customer's needs.
    Spot on as usual Caroline, thank you.

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  55. The Body Shop in Ireland needs to take a few lessons on customer service.
    Every time I go to one of the stores in Dublin I'm ignored, its got to the point now that after my experience last week,I won't be entering anymore of their stores. Which is a shame as I love TBS ethos and their products especially the Vitamin E masks for travelling but I've had enough of being treated as I'm an inconvenience or disturbing their personal gossip time while on the shop floor and I'll take my money and business to where its appreciated.

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  56. As an American who has never had the pleasure of visiting London, I have to admit that I'm surprised to hear that UK customer service is lacking.

    My sum and total knowledge (or lack thereof) comes from watching the hilariously funny "Are You Being Served?", one of my favorite shows EVER.

    In the US (at least in the Midwest part of the US) our stores do not have floorwalkers (do I have that term correct?), only sales associates (sometimes called clerks). Younkers, once one of the shining examples of service, has become a shadow of its former glorious self. To find a clerk (never mind a management type) in Younkers is akin to finding a 4-leaf clover: a gloriously exciting event. Consequently, they now get very little of my business whereas they formerly were one of my top three stores.

    MAC clerks all seem to have received the same training: look down your nose at your customer, particularly if she is over 25.

    In my area we have one remaining good department store: Von Maur. They give excellent customer service. When my son was getting married (a California beach wedding), I shopped for my mother-of-the-groom dress at Von Maur. Having never been to a beach wedding or even to California, I was at a loss. The clerk was very helpful. We chatted about the wedding and the locale, and she helped me find the perfect dress. A week or so later, my sister shopped in that same store for her aunt-of-the-groom dress. She found a perfect one. The same clerk was on duty, and chatted up my sister about the wedding and the locale. The clerk, who remembered me and remembered my dress, had the unhappy chore of telling my sister that she could not buy the dress my sister had selected, as the mother-of-the-groom (me!) had already chosen that exact dress. Now, that is what I call goooooooood customer service!

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  57. I'm an American who visited London two years ago and had my first experience with Lush. Excellent service, but not only were the sales girls helpful with product (which my best friend and I purchased a good amount of), the two girls had us pull out our maps and wrote an awesome travel itinerary for us of their favorite places to eat and go to for night life. Awesome!!

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  58. I have to say I hate lush staff, they jump out at you with such fake overly friendliness. Also NEED to be trained better for skincare. Heard a woman with dry skin looking for a cleanser and was offered aqua marina "because it's so nourishing" while ultrabland set next to it...

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    Replies
    1. I agree. I avoid Lush because the majority of the time they jump down my throat with fake friendliness. I don't need a new best friend, I need to smell all your soap THANKS.

      Delete
  59. I have just arrived home after 2 weeks in LA and Las Vegas and the customer service experience over there could not be more different. You cannot walk around stores like Sephora, Victoria's Secret or Nordstroms without being approached multiple times by staff introducing themselves to you and asking you if you need any help. It can be a bit overwhelming at first for Brits, but they don't follow your around the store hassling you. Its nice to be able to get served straight away without having to wait at the till like a pillock waiting for someone to notice you and serve you. I think the customer service staff over here could do with some training by their American counterparts.

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  60. Customer service is just as equally bad here in the US. The problem is the same as it is for you overseas. Young employees (& some older) who don't give a crap, low wages, poor training, & no incentive to WANT to do better. When I'm saying hello & thank you, while the sales associate says not a word, that's a big problem. Why am I thanking YOU for spending my hard earned money? It's sad & pathetic. Giving managerial positions to people who should never be managers, doesn't help either. I've worked retail & I've also managed. It's just pathetic & sadly, quite common nowadays.

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  61. Paul Smith Outlet near Bond Street--exact same thing. The guy could not be bothered to walk down the stairs to check a size for someone. I watched in awe. This type of thing though is a lot better in Asian countries i feel. Customer is always king.

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  62. Great post. I always found Gap in London fab for customer service. But not consistent anymore. Stood at till in Gap Dublin while assistant tried to get Managers attention to process a refund - Manager too busy chatting with another staff member to even acknowledge. Hate the head down no eye contact thing that many "assistants" think passes as "I've not noticed you yet". From here on I'm getting more bolshy and loudly requesting service!

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  63. THANK YOU for this. Crappy customer service is something I'm constantly nagging about, and I question the issue of "high standards". I very much have what people would consider "high standards" but quite frankly, I don't think they're high - they're simply standards. It's their standards that are low, and I believe that, also, it's part of the problem: I am the most intolerant person I know regarding customer service, and no, I'm also not a diva - my first job was as a boutique clerk, and I've been through it all. What is happening though, is that people's standards and politeness levels are lowering as a whole, apparently. Nobody feels outraged as I do when I enter a shop and the entire staff is talking to eachother while acknowledging your presence and need to be tended. And yes, for me this is outrageous!
    Another thing - I strongly agree with the fact that staff are being paid less and less, however, I don't think that has got anything to do with manners, and I'm sure you'd agree with me on that. I would be polite to everyone regardless of my wage/shift hours/mood/whatever. This is being polite AND professional. And regardless of training as well - it's a shame that people need to be trained to be POLITE! Obviously training is a crucial part of customer service, but ideally the focus would be on the brand, the products, and general customer service, but this lady at Debenhams was, above all, extremely impolite. That's basic manners.
    And yes, Lush has outstanding service, I think - they're usually all-around nice people, eager to help (how rare! Not only "helpful" but actually eager). And I'd happily buy more than I intended to simply because good service is what makes a great shopping experience. Too bad managers and executives can't seem to grasp this.

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  64. I've always had good experiences in Lush. Mainly because all the staff seem genuinely happy to be there.
    They're also very generous with samples.
    I had a particularly bad experience at Chanel with my mother who was looking at the perfumes. The shop assistant (who had no other customers) was behaving as if we were wasting her time and couldn't possibly afford anything. It was really insulting.

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  65. Amen!! I've been in customer service/sales for 10 years. I know that makes me a baby still, but I spent 4 of those years as a Guest Service Manager with a major Department Store, two with a major Bank in a call center, and am now with an employee benefits firm. I have specific standards when it comes to customer service. I personally dont need you to come running when I walk into a shop BUT I do expect to be acknowledged with a greeting. It's polite period. Everyone has bad days, but as best you can stick a smile on your face and just grin and bear it. You have a job in customer service.

    If your one of the lucky ones you have an Employer that provides good pay, incentives, benefits, room for growth. Unfortunately more and more employers don't want to spend the money which is ridiculous. They are happy settling with young adults who just need a part time job, those that just dont understand the concepts of true customer service, or someone who just doesn't care.

    As any Customer Service representative/server/clerk will tell there are quite a few customers who could use some manners and retraining on interpersonal relationships. When did we stop using the words May I....it's not I want, Can I, or give me. PUT YOUR CELL PHONE AWAY AT THE TIL, UNLESS YOU GO TO A SELF SERVICE CHECKOUT THERE IS A PERSON THAT NEEDS YOU TO PAY ATTENTION AND INTERACT WITH THEM. Read the store's policies and rules, they are there for your information and can help in creating a more informed/pleasent shopping experience.

    A simple all around rule of thumb. Have manners, Respect is earned not simply given, Customer Service is a two way street.

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    Replies
    1. "Customer Service is a two way street."
      GOD, YES! That says it all!

      Delete
  66. This post really struck a chord with me for my experience of working in retail. I used to work for a well known coffee shop chain and as a result of my hubby's job we moved around a lot, so I ended up working in about 4 different stores. The first three stores I worked in were brilliant, they were hot on staff training and the managers were approachable, firm but fair types and the shops were ran well. We KNEW we gave good customer service because the customers told us so! We had a lot of regular customers and we received very good feedback. Even when customers that were unhappy (which was rare), our genuine apologies and offers to resolve any issues meant we could let them leave on a positive note. The reason we could provide such good customer service is because we were valued, trained and looked after. I thoroughly enjoyed working in these stores where my experience and knowledge was valued!
    HOWEVER! The last store I worked for actually resulted in me leaving the company. I moved to the store while it was under temporary management, I could tell from the outset that the staff were divided - there were 'old timers' who were loyal to the interim manager (who had been promoted and was on a power trip!) and 'newbies' whose training had been poor and who were basically treated like crap on crappy contracts. I was considered an experienced member of the team in each store I had worked in previously and had bought my training manual with me to the new store, where I was treated like I had no idea what I was doing even thought I did. I tried to help a couple of the 'newbies' who were visibly struggling and I was actually punished by going on pot wash all day. Even in that job you have to provide good customer service, by making sure tables are clear and clean. I worked my ARSE off that day and was exhausted, even working over my given shift because somebody had not shown up for work (I mean, who would show up just to be treated like crap?) Anyway - my point was that I was given no thanks, treated like an idiot by the interim manager who eventually tried to sack me. I called my previous manager in tears and asked her to vouch for me, which she did, and in the end they accepted my resignation and gave me 2 weeks pay because it was clear I was being wrongfully dismissed. They KNEW this girl was in the wrong and it was affecting their customer satisfaction. I saw so many people walk out after waiting to be served, I couldn't serve them because I was allocated to a different job and we weren't allowed to leave out posts!! The staff were demoralized and made to feel unimportant and it showed in their service. As far as I could tell there weren't really any regular customers and the ones that did come in a few times a week weren't really treated with any extra friendliness or consideration.
    So you have hit the nail on the head Caroline - good service stems from taking care of your staff, who in turn take care of your customers. And you know what? When they lost me as a member of staff they lost me as a customer as well!

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  67. Totally agree. Have been saying this for years. Part of the reason I go to Sainsburys for my big shop is because I know I will be getting good customer service. A pleasant checkout assistant who ho won't rush me!! I cannot stand being rushed through a checkout!

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  68. Hear, hear and sadly, what you have written could have been me (and I'm sure many others) writing about my own customer service experiences. I particularly noticed how appalling the level of customer service is here when I went to New York a few years ago, store and restaurant staff couldn't do enough for us - your Lush experience was pretty much the level I experienced in every store/restaurant there. Agree, get rid of zero hours contracts, train staff, treat them with some respect and the result will be happy customers - our local Waitrose is a shining example. Love your blog btw (going off on a tangent here but whilst I'm on!) and my skin is like a different person's since I've been following your advice - thank you xx

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  69. Love this post. I am in luxury retail, senior position. My big secret is hiring people who like people. Not everyone does. If you approach service as an opportunity to make someone feel good, great in fact, you never go wrong. And funnily enough, the sales people who have this naturally, are the ones with with the biggest commission bonuses at the end if each month! Customers don't buy stuff from people they don't like. Simple.

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    1. Exactly! Liking people and being polite and respectful can't be taught.

      Delete
  70. Number one: 'Look after your staff' and
    Number two: 'The customer is not always right. But the customer is always the customer'. Both absolutely smacked it right on the head for me. Good manners cost absolutely nothing, from both the shop assistant and the customer - it's appalling how customers can come in and think they can treat a shop assistant like total crap, but also I cannot fathom going into other shops and be treated poorly by assistants.

    I could bang on and on about this sort of topic, but I'll hold my tongue...! There just seems to be a real lack of decent management in retail at the moment, and in my opinion, customer service should always be a priority. Ignoring your staff too and treating them poorly too is not going to get you anywhere.

    Bravo, Caroline.

    Lucy xx // She's So Lucy

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  71. Great post!
    Although I promised myself that I will never buy anything from Lush again (I live in Germany btw). You literally won't be able to look around alone in my Lush store. 2 seconds in and somebody is trying to sell you something very VERY aggressively. If you are in there twith a friend they even interrupt you while you are talking just to rub some kind of product onto you that you don't even want.

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  72. I loved this post! I had to make my boyfriend read it too. I always go into a shop with a smile on my face and try to be as amicable as possible (as I've been in the position they've been in before too!) and sometimes it gets shoved back in my face. I really think that employees should be paid more and have more training to provide for the customer.

    Emily x
    www.emandthem.co.uk

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  73. Totally with you on this! I think manners in general seem to be slipping away and decent customer service is getting harder and harder to find (but when you get it, it makes SUCH a difference). I once had a Benefit counter assistant walk off halfway through a makeover and not come back (I had half a face of foundation, she walked off through the staff door and disappeared). Things like that are enough to put you off a brand, no matter how good the products might be.

    www.talesofapaleface.com

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  74. What a week for customer service, that was... I had a bad experience in John Lewis (not in Beauty though) and won't put my feet at House of FAILURE ever again. Just like you, I work in retail and my absolute priority is giving the best possible customer service. Exactly because I know what's behind the scenes and how hard it is, I'm not difficult a customer at all, but I do expect the same service I provide. That's all.

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  75. Yes it strikes me as odd. Especially considering that the ONLY thing a stone and mortar store offers that differs from the internet is the experience and knowledge of the sales people. When I buy a lipstick in a store I want the sales associate to advise me on the color, longevity, and feel of the lipstick. To say, oh hey I can see you gravitating towards these colors but have you maybe thought about trying this color? Otherwise I'd just order the products online and be done with it.

    And it takes training, experience, and a wee bit of talent to do that without being pushy. But nope, they want the cheapest labor and then they hope that will drive up the profits. That isn't something to bring repeat customers.

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  76. Totally agree. I worked in a cafe for 4 years, in the height of summer and Christmas they consistently understaffed us to save money and we all suffered. The customer included. And if anything went wrong as a direct result of this, they turned on us and blamed us. The understaffed, underpaid employees who were doing our best to line their pockets. Thankfully I'm out of this poisonous area now and into a small company that cares. xx

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  77. Great read Caroline! You're so right, everything comes down to management, training and having the staff needed to serve the customer and get the job done. So much easier to smile and be helpful when there's plenty of staff to go round. Customers can be given your full attention, as you know your colleagues are looking after other areas of the store. It's so hard to be polite and interested when you're shitting yourself because you know that while you're serving this customer there's a massive queue and not being dealt with/ stocking up not being done/ customers not being greeted/ shop floor being trashed. And because of this you're either getting out late or getting a bollocking for not getting everything done. Look after staff, let them share the workload. Under staffing is the worst! So nice to hear a rant from someone who understands and appreciates good service too :)

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  78. Great read Caroline! You're so right, everything comes down to management, training and having the staff needed to serve the customer and get the job done. So much easier to smile and be helpful when there's plenty of staff to go round. Customers can be given your full attention, as you know your colleagues are looking after other areas of the store. It's so hard to be polite and interested when you're shitting yourself because you know that while you're serving this customer there's a massive queue and not being dealt with/ stocking up not being done/ customers not being greeted/ shop floor being trashed. And because of this you're either getting out late or getting a bollocking for not getting everything done. Look after staff, let them share the workload. Under staffing is the worst! So nice to hear a rant from someone who understands and appreciates good service too :)

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  79. *Standing Ovation*

    On the "take care of your employees" point, I work for Ulta in the states and I constantly lament about how the company doesn't care about me or the customers. They cut hours to the bare bones minimum. Lately we've been down to only managers working- no cashiers or prestige floor staff. How is shaving $80/day in wages really better for the company?? Customers won't come back in if they see no one is there to help them. And what about my managers who count on their job to be full time but then have their hours cut with no back up plan for when their bills come at the end of the month? It's appalling.

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  80. Debenhams need to take a leaf out of John Lewis' book! Their CS is in another league x

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  81. Totally agree. I recently emailed John Lewis (no less!) from whom I had expected better, to complain about the CLINIQUE (no less!) rep in one of their UK stores. She was dusting her compacts and literally had us stand there for about 10 minutes until my Mum (who may be an OAP but has the cash to splash on cosmetics and always has) said "Excuse me, can we get some help here?" Surly Lady carried on with her feather duster and as my Mum asked questions about shades and formulations just barked "Yes" "No" and at one unbelievable point "you'll just have to look, I don't know".
    I emailed both JL and Clinique and received a sop email from both. Have I bought any Clinique? Have I heck. Has my Mum? Nope.

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  82. I used to work retail many moons ago -like in the '90's man! It feels like back then ithe company/ service provider felt they were lucky that the customer was doing business with them... but now it feels that the company feels like the customer should feel lucky to have the company's services/product. It is a paradigm shift I am baffled by!

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  83. It is management that determines whether a clerk works for them or not. It is management that is responsible for those clerks' attitudes. It is NOT the fault of the staff, if they are not trained. And you're right, Caroline, most are not being trained, and most are not being provided with the other kinds of support (politeness, respect for them as people) that make one happy to greet customers, etc. One day I hope corporations will all understand that, and for now, I shop where people are pleasant and helpful and plan to continue to avoid Walmart and the like.

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  84. I've also experienced shockingly bad customer service in Debenhams, but it was at the Edinburgh location. I was buying a few tops, a pair of jeans, and some socks (which I found and tried on all on my own without even a word from the staff). I'm not joking when I say that the two girls at the till didn't speak a *single* word to me other than telling me the total for the items I was purchasing. While I was being wrung up they were chatting amongst themselves about how hungover they were and acting as though I wasn't even there. Being from the US, where the customer service in department stores is typically very good, I was in complete shock. I did regularly have lovely customer service experiences in Anthropologie and Lush during my time living in Edinburgh though, so it just shows that it's all down to the particular company and how well they treat and train their employees.

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  85. I've also experienced shockingly bad customer service in Debenhams, but it was at the Edinburgh location. I was buying a few tops, a pair of jeans, and some socks (which I found and tried on all on my own without even a word from the staff). I'm not joking when I say that the two girls at the till didn't speak a *single* word to me other than telling me the total for the items I was purchasing. While I was being wrung up they were chatting amongst themselves about how hungover they were and acting as though I wasn't even there. Being from the US, where the customer service in department stores is typically very good, I was in complete shock. I did regularly have lovely customer service experiences in Anthropologie and Lush during my time living in Edinburgh though, so it just shows that it's all down to the particular company and how well they treat and train their employees.

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  86. Always have bad service as Zara. Always. Rude, ignorant staff and always queues at the till. However I was recently surprised to get bad customer service at M&S who are normally so good. Some underwear in 3 for 2 offer was mislabelled which was discovered when I had to pay. Despite this not being anything I had done, I was asked to go back and swap the underwear and when I came back to the till seconds later the cashier was serving someone else and made me wait ten mins. Almost just left the stuff and walked out.

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  87. The reason you get great customer service in places like Adidas and Liberty is that they pay their staff decent wages and, from what I've heard, they're engaged employers. I know several people who work (or have worked) for Debs and they hate it. Most retail workers hate their jobs these days as, as you've said, we live in the age of zero-hours contracts, plus employers love to employ younger workers so they can pay out the lowest wages possible. I'm currently working for Holland and Barrett part-time to give me a bit of extra cash alongside my freelance writing work and my university studies and, from an employee's perspective, SO MUCH is expected of us for such a crap wage. I know that may sound whingey and I should be grateful to have any job at all (and I really am, honestly), but I've worked various jobs in both mass-market and independent retail over the past 10 years or so and, seriously, over the last 2-3 years I've seen massive changes. Employers expect more and want to pay you less. Everything is about targets (even more so than usual) and there is so much pressure from the people at Head Office placed upon us. Is it any wonder that, after doing the same thing day after day and receiving nothing but criticism – and, in the case of H&B, literally being personally 'named and shamed' on weekly company-wide newsletters if you haven't handed out enough loyalty cards or sold enough promotional lines during your week's work – some days you just want to scream 'fuck off' to EVERYONE, especially annoying customers who, in your scrambled and stressed-out mind, seem to deliberately being extra-demanding?

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  88. It is such a shame these days! But I do love The Body Shop as well! A few times I've come in wanting to buy a certain item. When they asked about my skin type, they urged me to not buy that item because it would only irritate my sensitive skin (like Vit c products). And after I finished my Roaccutane treatment and told the sales lady how I wasn't sure which skin type I had post-acne, she sat me down, filled out a long list of questions about my skin and helped me figure it all out. It took at least 15 minutes out of her time. Now I love to come back to TBS, because I know they know their products, and they want to help you in any way possible. Love them!

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  89. i completely understabd where you're coming from and youre bang on about employers giving young untrained people jobs that they are unqualified for and get the minimum wage. i just, quite frankly want to rant for a minute if thats alright. i am 17 in scotland. my minimum wage is £3.87 per hour. i waitress for said amount from 10 till 6, essentially no brake unless i can hide in a corner for a minute. my boss is not pleasant (making me cry often) i dont cry period. anyhoo on Fridays and saturdays i have double shifts 10-5 30, 6-11/12. on £3.87. during my 'holidays' i will work 5 days a week. I WORK ON CHRISTMAS DAY FOR PETES SAKE!!!...on £3.87. but hey at least i have a job right?

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  90. I once went in a clothes shop and overheard sorry heard, as the conversation was that loud, 2 staff members behind the till talking about one of them having had an abortion WHAT!!! WRONG in so many ways it was not even worth saying anything or complaining I would probably have been accused of eves dropping believe me that was not the case. I have worked in CS for many years and enjoy working with the general public but CS is really appalling at the moment and I do try and compliment as much as I can as too many are too quick to complain

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  91. Hi Caroline,

    Oh I hear you r.e. Customer service in Debenhams. I work for Clinique in a small Debenhams store and I am on the brink of leaving all together because of the appalling staffing, not just in the cosmetics department but in the store as a whole! Fortunately for me, I am trained in customer service having worked in numerous restaurants and being trained by Clinique.... However we are so stretched on the shop floor that it is near on physically impossible to do my job most days, never mind produce results! There are 7 cosmetic counters on our department and between them we have 5 full time and 2 part time staff.... Nowhere near enough not to mention the fact that we are also serving on each other's cosmetic counters (without the product knowledge) jewellery, menswear, Christmas gift and the other day on the way back from my break women's shoes!

    It's appalling for the customer and a very embarrassing position to be in, I would just like to go to work and be with people who are motivated and happy (not frazzled or uninterested!).

    If anyone knows of any jobs going please let me know!! Rant over!

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  92. I work in retail, have done for my entire working life, and whilst customers are a pain in the arse, customer service is the most important part of my job. However, the store
    doesn't employ enough staff, so I often see customers miling at the front till because I'm serving a beauty customer. I'm employed by the brand and not the store so the brand is my priority. I love my job, but the frustration with lack of staff and store politics ineveitably means I am not as lovely to customers as I would like to be. If a brand customer comes along whilst I'm selling sanitary towels then I'm sure customers pick up on that. It makes me sad, but it's being caught between a rock and a hard place! Although you do get the customers who think because I sell make up its not as important as their purchase and interrupt when i have someone in my chair. They politely get told "uh no".

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  93. I feel that I have to comment about a truly disgusting and horrifying experience I've had within Nuneaton's Debenhams (well...one of many!)

    Firstly, it's important to understand that although I am twenty-five, I look younger and do give off a vibe of insecurity and nervousness that probably stems from my mental health illnesses (anxiety and depression...)
    I shop a lot with Debenhams, as being in the U.K. we don't have many options regarding beauty, so I order online and get many products sent to my local store for free.

    Many times I've gone to the desk there to have to wait ten minutes as there is no one around on the second floor; it's a busy men's despartment, but no assistants?!
    Anyway, they had a deal going on which gave me a five pound voucher with my order, I didn't realise at the time I was meant to receive it, but when I did realise, I went straight back to the desk after having a drink at the cafe, and was very politely-also guiltily, as I hate asking for things-informing the lady that I didn't receive my voucher.

    She was rude from the start.
    Acted like I was a criminal, scowled at me and actually said, "We do record in this store you know?" I replied I know, to which she said, "I will get security to look at the tapes to make sure you didn't already get one!"

    She then left and had security watch me until she returned fifteen minutes later to hand me one and say, "Next time you should make sure you get it first, so you're not wasting time."

    I was MORTIFIED, and in tears! I'm a sensitive soul.
    I now refuse to go in that shop, and I even tried to complain to Debenhams, who never got back to me because they couldn't care less.

    Urgh, customer service in this country is non-existent. I'm sorry for writing this, it's an experience that still upsets me.

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