Published May 20, 2002

Dealing with Unacceptable Employee Behavior Problems

"There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody simply by spending his money elsewhere." Sam Walton, founder, Wal-Mart.

You may have a great location, a well-stocked and attractive store, competitive pricing and "in demand" merchandise - but that is not enough. Shoppers desire more than opening their wallets or swiping their credit cards with the latest technology. They want to feel good about their shopping experience, they want to feel appreciated, better yet, they love to be recognized; a "Hello Mrs. Jones" does wonders in building customer loyalty.

If you allow any "raining on my parade" to happen to your customers, you may be in for some rainy days yourself. Employee rudeness, ill manners, abruptness, or anything that causes your customer to wish she or he were elsewhere, will put you out of business. Perhaps not today, or next month, but in time when your showroom is empty, your phones are quiet, and your sales clerks are passing the latest gossip to while away the hours, you will feel that something has gone astray.

Take the case of Kurt, who after opening his second gift shop, found out what happens when customers are ill treated. Not wanting to trust his new store to a stranger, he decided to personally manage it and hire someone to manage his initial location. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, Kurt discovered that sales at his first store had dropped nearly 40 percent since the hiring of his "manager." Asking why, he was told: "No problem, just a general slowness of retail traffic - nothing to worry about." Two months later, the store was "dead."

By chance, a friend, from the old neighborhood stopped by Kurt's new store and while chatting, said he was surprised Kurt would trust his store to such a rude person. Getting that feeling, "oh-oh something is wrong," Kurt asked what did he mean "rude?" He was not happy with the answer. Anxious to know more, he made a few phone calls and found out that his store manager snarled at some customers, made others feel that they were "bothering" him, was slow in waiting on people and in general displayed an attitude of aloofness and impatience. Kurt knew he had blundered.

What happened to Kurt is a problem many business owners experience when they staff their store(s) with ill-prepared employees who lack motivation and training in customer care. Take a lesson from Sam Walton who did not grow the world's largest retailer by upsetting his customers. He did away with the titles of employee or sales clerk, coined the term "sales associate," and insisted on training his employees in the "care and feeding" of all who walked through the front door.

Now to the gist of the matter. How does your business stack up? It is wise not to assume all is well with your customers. If they are unhappy about the way they are treated, don't expect them to tell you - they will just start shopping elsewhere. How do you treat your customers? Do you know how your employees make your customers feel? Are you discouraging success without knowing it? Your time will be well spent checking the "temperature'' of your customers.

You can gain an insight and do some damage control with these questions:

1.How is your phone answered? If the usual response is, "please hold" without the caller getting a word in - not good. When we call anyone, we want and expect a warm helpful greeting, not background music for twenty minutes.

2.How are your customers greeted? Promptly, pleasantly, or abruptly?

3.Do your customers feel that it is a pleasure to shop at your store or are they made to feel ill at ease by a less-than-helpful employee "don't bother me, can't you see I am busy" attitude.

4.Do your employees keep their word to your customers? Do they return phone calls? Are they prompt in keeping appointments? Disappointed customers disappear.

Ponder this: if you spend hard earned cash on advertising, question the logic of spending money to attract customers only to insult or ignore them. You are wasting your resources when your customers are driven away by insensitive and lazy employees.

You may know the importance of catering to your customers, since you understand that they pay the bills, but do your employees? Your challenge is to make sure they learn this basic principle of business success. Take a lesson from Mr. Walton's success. You may not build the next Wal-Mart, but you will stay in business.

Article - Copyright 2002 Dr. Paul E. Adams. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.