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Can't Smile? Take the Day Off

Big means nothing. Even a little mouse can put an elephant to flight.

I walked into the bank to cash a personal check. I had been a customer of the bank for maybe 20 years. It was not the branch where I normally go. Where I bank the cashiers usually give me eye contact and greet me in a cordial manner. I counted five employees behind the counter.

There were five people waiting in line for a cashier. There was one cashier assisting a customer. The others were standing near a computer and seemed to be having an animated discussion. I heard murmuring among those waiting. They were complaining about the bank having only one person cashiering and others apparently trying to solve a problem. I wondered why someone didn’t look up and acknowledge that we were waiting. I also wondered why somebody did not apologize for the delay and explain to those waiting how much longer it might be. I glanced at my watch. I had an appointment. I had time, so I waited. No one was smiling.

Eighteen minutes later the one cashier motioned me to her opening. There was still no smile.

I said to the cashier, “Have you called a doctor?”

“For what?” she said.

“Everyone seems to be feeling bad.”

“What do you mean?”

“No one is smiling,” I said.

“Yes they are,” she said. She still hadn’t smiled.

“I didn’t see anyone smile,” I said, now irked even more.

“You just didn’t notice,” she kind of snapped at me.

“I guess my eyesight is bad, old age is tough,” I said.

We finished the transaction.

“Have a good one,” she said. A vague smile curled her lips.

“It’ll be better outside,” I snapped a little, too.

A line was queuing up again.

The other employees were still huddled together at the console.

Having spent 50 years nurturing customers in the retail business I am perhaps more conscious of customer service. I also know how easy it is the send clients to competition. It’s not like there is only one bank in town.

I remember the 10 years spent with Sears and the completeness of their initial training program. It was an educational experience; first apologize and then solve the customer’s problem. I could have written the policy. The knowledge was beneficial when I opened York Furs at Regenstein’s and then York Furs in Buckhead; don’t ever abuse a consumer, the bad judgment will come back to bite you.  A happy customer will often suggest you to their friends. An unhappy customer will tell everybody about their bad experience.

And always smile, even when you have a headache. If you can’t smile then take the day off.

If that branch had been the bank’s only branch, I would have immediately changed banks.

Several years ago I was subjected to an insipid customer satisfaction policy at a pharmacy. I have not been in the place since. My family is in agreement, and they now go to different pharmacies. Customer satisfaction is vital to business. Flawed customer service policies assure a decrease in business.

Big means nothing. Even a little mouse can put an elephant to flight.

Doug Dahlgren May 04, 2011 at 02:00 PM
Excellent point made here…but do we realize who the guilty party is? Mr. York stood up, politely made his point to the bank clerk, but does he have any help? We have all been raised to be nice, not make a scene and allow for the feelings of others. Business doesn’t care about the conduct of its employees until, and unless, it affects their business. There are exceptions, surely. But for the most part they find it easier and cheaper to buy advertising that claims “fast, friendly service,” than it is to actually provide people who will do that. This will continue and only get worse if we do not demand better. We must let business know, in the words of Yoda if nothing else. That “up with it, we shall no longer put.”

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