Are Low Customer Service Standards Costing You Money?

Cashier at supermarket checkout.If your company is like most, you are always looking for ways to lower your costs and improve the bottom line. The challenge is to make sure your people serve customers at the highest level while keeping their eye on costs. But could your employees actually be costing you money? Let me give you an example I encountered recently.

I was out of town with a friend of mine who is building a new home and we needed a measuring tape to measure some things in the kitchen. We found the tape at a nearby store and took it to the counter to check out. The young man checking us out picked up the item to scan, but the price did not show up. As we all know, this happens from time to time, so he paged a runner to go to the aisle and find out the price.

After a couple of paging attempts, it was apparent no one was going to answer the call. Since the cashier could not leave the counter to check on the price, he told us to just take the measuring tape—for free. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. My friend felt strange about taking it and offered to walk back and get another one or write down the information for him, but he kept insisting she take it for free, saying, “No one will ever know.”

This item was under four dollars—not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things—but think about the underlying attitudes this behavior represents.

  • Does this sound like an employee who was surprised no one answered his store page for a price look-up? What does this say about an internal expectation of responsive service in this store?
  • Does this sound like an employee who was proud to work at this store and who felt like a part of the team? Or was he just trying to move things along—even to the point of giving away merchandise?

Attitudes matter. If each employee at the store felt this way and allowed at least one customer a day to take something for free—or a similar scenario—think about how quickly those cases would add up and impact the store’s profitability. Sure, some customers may have said “Great, thanks!” and left, but no one feels good when standards are lowered. It reflects poorly on the store, the individual employee, and even the customer if they accept the trade-off.

Serving customers is not about giving away the store. It’s about demonstrating a genuine, caring attitude toward them and making them feel taken care of and responded to. If you want your employees to know the difference, do these three things to help them serve your customers at a higher level—a level that makes everyone proud of every interaction.

  1. Onboard your people with the right amount of training before they have customer contact so that they are ready to answer questions and serve customers with the right information.
  2. Share company financial information with employees—it will educate them and give them a sense of ownership in the business.
  3. Train all employees on the skills you would like them to demonstrate in providing legendary service to customers. Don’t expect people to know what a high level of service looks like—show them what it looks like in your work environment. Then hold all employees accountable for using those skills on the job.

While the young man probably thought he was serving the customer, my friend felt uncomfortable not paying. She gave him four dollars, saying she knew it wasn’t more than that, and asked him to ring it up when he found out the information. But the damage was done. My friend didn’t feel good about the experience at all. She walked out of the store vowing to find a better place to shop the next time she needed similar products.

Low standards don’t benefit anyone. Teach your people to serve at a higher level. When they do, everyone will feel better about the experience—and your customers will come back.

About the author

Kathy CuffKathy Cuff is a customer service expert and coauthor, together with Ken Blanchard and Vicki Halsey of the book,Legendary Service: The Key is to Care.

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