Here’s a Ridiculous Story About What the Hell Has Happened to Customer Service

Before I get to the point of this commentary, I think some context is needed.

I was on my way home from an event last Thursday night. It was 9:45pm and all I wanted was a bowl of cereal. Namely, Golden Grahams. My favorite cereal of all the cereals (yeah, I’m 12…so what?). I did not have any Golden Grahams in my house, therefore needed to make a pit stop. The closest store to my house that was still open was Dollar General. Game on.

Now, I want to make this perfectly clear: When I go into the Dollar General, I am not expecting the world’s greatest experience and I’m willing to bet the bar you don’t either. Get in, get what you need, get out, move on with life, right? But the treatment I received on this particular visit left me pondering how far the levels of customer service have truly plummeted.

I placed my box of Golden Grahams on the register. The cashier, turned and talking to another cashier behind her as I approached, maintained her conversation with her co-worker for a good 30 seconds. The other cashier clearly saw me, but didn’t let her co-worker know she had a customer. When she finally turned, she carried on the conversation with her co-worker while ringing up my one-item order, without a hello or an acknowledgement whatsoever. She didn’t recite my total…I had to get that from the credit card machine. I paid, she gave me my receipt, still with no acknowledgement, then turned back to her co-worker to continue chatting.

Again, context. 9:45pm Thursday at Dollar General. But still…was a standard greeting that far off the reservation of expectations?

My first job as a pimply-faced 16-year old was shagging carts at a grocery store. From there, I worked in various departments throughout the store while employed through college. Our job was to keep the shelves stocked and looking neat.

But, an unspoken, expected element of our job was to provide quality customer service. This was accomplished in several ways, such as contributing to the creation of a presentable shopping environment to assisting customers with finding items. If someone couldn’t find an item, we led them to it. I see this in a handful of stores today, but it’s few and far between.

Naturally, it went without saying that we engaged our customers and made every effort to look like we didn’t want to be somewhere else. If a cashier was ringing out groceries and I was bagging, we engaged the customer in conversation, not each other. And if a co-worker and I were talking about getting bombed at a party the night before in front of a customer, we probably would’ve been canned (the fact that I’ve experienced this and it offended me vividly shows my age) or, at the very least, seriously reprimanded.

My point with this diatribe is that this scenario is, unfortunately, a microcosm of customer experience today. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of men and women who do it right in this world and they should be recognized and compensated for such. But there are many people who let exterior circumstances enter their professional environments and, ultimately, make the companies they represent look like hell in the eyes of the general consumer.

When someone goes out of their way to genuinely create a memorable experience, you know it. When someone is willing to take the time to describe menu items at a restaurant, you know it. When someone is willing to help solve a problem from start to finish, you know it. When someone is smiling and happy and engaging, you know it.

And when they’re none of these things, you know it, too.

No matter what role you play in your business, own it. Strive to provide all the good things mentioned above. And, no matter what area of the world you find yourself in right now, the following is universal: a simple greeting can go a long way.



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