Since graduation, I have always been in the retail industry and am currently the district manager for the Once Upon A Child stores. I am fortunate and proud to work for the original, owner and founder of resale, Lynn Blum. This year the company is celebrating 30 years of business.
Lynn started her stores with a cash box, ad in the paper, and a 350 sq foot store in Toledo, Ohio. The growth has been amazing. Now there are 250 franchised stores nationwide.
We know that the answer is often somewhere in between, but the fun of this section is that you have to pick just one!
Paper > Plastic
Personalization < Privacy
In-Store Shopping < Online Shopping
Transactional > Relational
Mac > PC
Customer Service > Customer Experience
Captain Kirk < Dr. Spock
Talk > Text
Dog < Cat
Movie Theater > In-Home Rental
What was your first job and what did you learn about customer service in it?
During my college summers I waitressed during the day and worked in a department store in the evenings. I was young and had so much to learn.
My first couple of days of waitressing were frightful: balancing hot plates of steak orders, getting drink orders correct, uncorking wine bottles in front of guests, and trying to be calm and professional all at the same time. These jobs taught me that creating a fun atmosphere was valuable! It was important to provide an inviting and upbeat atmosphere, be knowledgeable about the product, make eye contact with the guests, and develop a good rapport.
I could remember the corks crumbling and breaking into pieces, as I was pulling them out with a cork screw. I often joked and laughed with the guests and made light of the situation. However; if the guest was upset or didn’t like the dinner, I was taught to make it right. Whether it be an extra dessert, discount on the meal, free drink, etc.
The main lesson I have learned is that perception is reality in the guest’s eyes. It’s not what you say or do, it’s how that is remembered.
Tell us how one outside influence impacted your customer service or customer experience thinking. (For ex. book, movie, sporting event, relationship, travel)
I was traveling with two young kids and our final destination was Florida. We had an early 7:30am flight. Unfortunately, the plane was a little delayed due to weather. When arriving in Cleveland, the flight attendant confirmed all passengers would be able to make the connecting flights.
Needless to say, my children and I had to hightail it to the opposite end of the airport to make the connecting flight. We were excited we got to the gate, only to see the agent shut the door. I quickly ran over to the counter, but the personnel seemed inconvenienced and showed very little empathy. The agent said the gate actually closed 3 minutes early.
My frustration level just soared. She gave me a $5 food voucher for 3 people and rerouted us on different flights. However; I had to fly to LaGuardia then to Florida. Originally I was supposed to arrive at 2:30. Instead we arrived at 10:00 pm.
I know weather cannot be controlled, but it was the approach and curtness of how the situation was handled that really irritated me the most. Understanding how I was on the verge of exploding and making a scene put customer service in perspective for me.
In your own personal experience, has customer service gotten better or worse in the past five years?
As a critic of retail customer service, I would like to say service has improved to a certain degree. However, unfortunately, I think sometimes businesses in tighter times tend to cut back on their controlled expenses and as a result, service can be affected.
For example, the other day I tried to reschedule a doctor’s appointment and was lead to an automated machine to talk to and then was put on hold for what seemed like 10 minutes. I then had to retell all my information to the individual. It also happens with credit card businesses, banks, etc. Its hard to reach a person, and you find yourself getting very worked up on the phone.
Overall, I think restaurants, hair salons, local businesses, and the retail industry have continuously been making significant strides with their guest service programs and really honing in on the personal experience. Guest service is ultimately going to be the competitor’s advantage.
> I consider it a bad customer experience when I am placed on hold for more than 1 minute.
> In five years, the most important social media channel for customer service will be Facebook and Twitter.
> The best book I read in the last twelve months was The Queen of Resale: Lynn Blum.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Miller.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.