Sunday, May 20, 2012

My #1 Tip to Surviving Bad Customer Service: SPEAK UP

Bad customer service is my number one pet peeve of all time. Yes, I hate when people chew with their mouths open or shake an empty glass with ice cubes clankin' all around. But those god-awful sounds are really nothing when compared to dealing with lazy, rude,ignorant, and unqualified retail sales people.

I have most definitely been discriminated against on multiple occasions based on (what I believe was) racism, sexism, and ageism. But this article isn't about pinpointing and analyzing the various degrees of bad customer service. Nah. This article is specifically designed to help you survive wardrobe shopping in boutiques or specialized shops amidst being struck with a lightning bolt of bad experience. Those who know me or have hired me as their Inland Empire or Los Angeles personal shopper know that I have a lack of patience when it comes to being treated poorly. Straight out: No one deserves to be treated like poo.

Throughout all of my years in college, I worked in retail. There were times I didn't feel like being at the mall and there were times I loved it. But never would a customer notice my true feelings about my work shift. I  have always valued professionalism and common sense ("I chose this job, and they chose to shop where I worked. Why give an attitude? Not necessary.") During one of my training sessions, at 17 years old, a manager shared with me that she treats customers as though they are guests in her home. That struck a chord with me immediately -- I loved her mindset. From that point on, I felt it was my mission to make every person feel welcome. Taking that ownership and "going above and beyond" with every customer earned me a promotion into management at Natural Wonders, where I sold candles, indoor fountains, and telescopes, I took the same "guest in my home" philosophy with me to Nordstrom in the T.B.D. and Savvy departments. At "Nordy," I eventually received a Customer Service award, my picture on the wall, and sincerely devoted personal clientele. I also naturally live by "The Golden Rule," which contributed to my success in retail.

I share all of this with you not to toot my own horn; rather, I want you to understand and truly believe that there are amazing, nice employees who work at fabulous shops! There are many people who work in retail to jump start their career in fashion sales, merchandising, and/or styling. If you are able to have run-ins with these type of employees -- those who typically have product knowledge to share and will bring you sizes to your fitting room -- it is very likely you'll be skipping out of the store, clutching your shopping bags, and smiling from ear to ear.

But what if you don't get assistance from a sales associate of that caliber? Or, what if you can't even find a friendly face to help you? The most important thing is to not let that employee ruin your afternoon of shopping. An idiot is an idiot, and yes, there are some that may work at your favorite places.

So what could my number one tip be, when it comes to surviving bad customer service? The answer is very easy to remember: SPEAK UP. You should be greeted upon entering a customized store or boutique, offered a fitting room when need be, asked if you need a shoe in your size, told about all of the sales and BOGO ("buy one, get one") deals of the day, etc.

Everyone speaks up differently. I am very vocal, and have no problem asking for a manager in front of the person who was rude to me and then explaining what the problem was. There are others who wouldn't dare dream of doing something like that; he or she may prefer to go home, find the email address to the corporate office and write their complaint. That's fine too. Speaking up is speaking up. Not only will you feel empowered, but you are actually doing a service to the establishment. Many higher-ups are so busy that they are not aware how certain employees are behaving. Only good can come out of you speaking up and acknowledging that bad customer service is not OK with you. You might feel like "Oh, I'm just one person. Will it even matter?" I get it. But imagine if a manager only needed one more complaint to get that sales associate outta there...

Just as passionate as I am about standing up to bad customer service, I am also passionate about speaking up when it comes to good customer service. Please share your experiences by talking directly to a manager about an employee or writing a letter in praise of that special someone. As just one person, you may be the final factor to helping him or her get a well-deserved promotion.

P.S. If you are experiencing disgustingly poor customer service, still speak up as you feel is best, but just get the hell outta there before you spend your hard-earned dollars at the wrong place. 

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