Customer Disservice

On a recent trip back from New Jersey, I ended up at the Charlotte Airport. Having consumed a liter of water, I needed to find the bathroom once I got off the plane. Little did I know that I was walking into a public bathroom with an attendant who proudly proclaimed:
“Welcome to my very clean bathroom.  I keep it nice and clean for you. How can I help you”

He said it seven times during the course of my visit. Over and over and over and over and over and over again. Truth be told, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. 

With a tip jar on the counter surrounded by free hits of Listerine and some hard candies, I understand that this gentleman was trying to encourage people to tip him for keeping the bathroom clean and handing me a paper towel to dry my hands.

But I feel like this was taking customer service a bit too far. It felt odd and inappropriate to be hear his announcement repeated several times as I used the restroom. 

I don’t begrudge the man.  What I do question is why the airport feels the need to have a person in that room for hours on end in what felt like panhandling.  Why not pay him a better wage. 

Does the Charlotte Airport believe this is where I want an improved customer experienced? 

Yes, I want a clean bathroom. No, I don’t need someone telling me this seven times during my visit to the urinal. And his insistence on repeating the same message over and over was annoying not welcoming. Others in the room all looked around as if to ask, are we on Candid Camera? 

The Wrong Kind of Aid
A few days later, I needed a few things from the drug store. I have two choices, the Rite Aid or the Walgreens.  I avoid the Rite Aid because every time I enter, the cashier calls out, “Welcome to Rite Aid” in the most disingenuous voice possible.  It is as if she is saying, my boss makes me say this. It was not authentic; it was off-putting and worst of all it was not how human beings interact.  
Hey Mr. Rite Aid, don’t tell the cashier what to say. Just make sure she makes people feel welcomed in an honest and sincere fashion.
You are Welcomed
If you run a retail store or an online call center, how do you train your customer service people to be human beings and not automatons? Someone I know who does this for a living says he has  a few simple rules when he hires people for these types of jobs: 

It is hard to train people to become friendly, outgoing and natural in conversation.  But it helps if you can start with someone who understand that their job is the so important because it is the welcome and smiling face that greets you when you begin your engagement with their brand. It is so important yet often the person doing this isn’t well-paid or encouraged to be themselves.

Whole Greetings
One company that has figured this out is Whole Foods. I always feel a significantly different welcome from their cashiers than at Harris Teeter, Food Lion or other traditional grocery chains. They take time to find people who are not identical. They hire people who are genuine and authentic in how they approach customers.  It rarely feels forced. It almost always feels, well – natural.

Acing It! 
Ace Hardware is another company that gets it. When I walk in the door, they have a person greet me and escort me to the aisle where they stock that special thing I need. They are helpful which is really what I care about most. I’m not a curmudgeon but I’m not there to chat. I want help finding what I need and I want to get in and out quickly. I don't like cloying, insincere greetings but I do like helpful hardware men (and women). 

How are you greeting your customers when they engage with your brand? What type of training does everyone at the front lines get and does it live up to the standards you have set?

Cartoon courtesy of Please visit their site for more laughs. 


For the best customer service on the planet, visit my 87 year old Mom Bea who is shown here making whitefish salad for the holidays. (the video on Youtube has the full recipe and is guaranteed to make you smile). 

Looking for some marketing coaching? Check out this link on Clarity where you can learn more. 

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