Here at Mustard we have done plenty of work for clients wanting to know every small detail about their customer experience, customer satisfaction, customer acquisition, and customer retention.

  Having worked in the retail sector myself, I can tell you it is not a glamourous world. Even whispering ‘Christmas season’ into any shop assistant’s ear will strike fear in the heart. Think long shifts, the smell of fresh crepes wafting in from the famous Manchester German markets whilst you stand amongst a thankless sea of shoppers wondering when you would eat something included in a Boots meal deal. There is however one rule, never to be spoken, but always to be followed around these times of year – customer service can flip off.  At this overpriced preppy store which I worked at, there was nothing more difficult than battling a sea of post-Christmas bargain shoppers whilst your back bows under the weight of cashmere jumpers you know you’ve just retrieved off the floor and given a good shake. Especially whilst trying to provide some sort of customer service.

There have been a few projects recently to which respondents have given some honest feedback with regards to the customer service they received. There was a great backlash against being approached first by a sales assistant, and the phrase ‘Can I help you at all’ was about as well received as a Christmas novelty jumper in August. . I too will find myself often wandering into shops and secretly hoping no enthusiastic shop assistant will approach me, as my answer will always be ‘No I’m fine thank you’ which roughly translates to ‘Leave me alone, if I wanted your help I would ask for it’.  Heaven forbid if this was not the first shop assistant to approach you (although if they are not the first please don’t point this out to the overworked shop assistant, things get awkward).

Alas, it is well known that not only in the retail sector but in others too, that the big cheese who sits at the big desk has no clue how things work for those on the tills. It is all too familiar that retail shops have training on how to approach and talk to customers, often suggesting a classy opening line such as ‘Omg I love your skirt, are you having a nice day?’ (Yes I was told to use that, No I never did, I don’t enjoy choking back vomit). 

Is there a huge gap between customer expectation and company service policy?  Do companies really know how best to engage and interact with their own customers? Has anyone ever looked to see if there are any negative outcomes from pouncing on customer like tigers on a baby antelope?

On a final note please remember that shop assistants are people who are just doing their job. We all know it’s a pointless job, 95% of you will not require help navigating rooms as large as a kitchen, but if they don’t ask they could end up in tidying the stock room and trust me nobody wants that!

If you would to discuss customer service further, or share your own retail horror stories you can reach Liz on her twitter @MustardLiz