Friday, May 22, 2009

Why customer service is an art form

Customer comes in making the kind of beeline for the desk that usually indicates an intention to pick up a special order; I greet him as he walks around two customers already in the store, who are half browsing but have also been somewhat engaged in conversation with me.

Customer (baseball cap, undershirt, 60's, a stranger to me): I have a question. I don't think you'll have it, but do you have "Woman in White?"

Me: Good question! I know that section pretty well, and I think we probably don't. (Checks computer.) We'd be happy to get it for you, but it's not in the store. We have stocked it before. Hmm. We sold it in '07, and it looks like it was just a slow seller.

Customer: (congratulating himself) I bet it was.

Me: But it's easy to reorder.

Customer: No, thanks. (wanders over to card spinners, other customers say goodbye and leave without making a purchase. I don't think they would have if I'd kept talking to them, since the conversation had led to hard-to-read questions about whether discussions at the Women of the World book club were feminist, but who knows?)

Me: (receiving books into inventory, making chitchat) I read "The Moonstone," but not "Woman in White."

Customer: You don't carry postcards.

Me: Sure we do. They're over here. (Walks to Syracuse Cultural Workers postcard display near register, brings them out onto counter.)

Customer: I can look at them myself.

Me: No problem. (goes back to receiving)

Customer: (snorts) "Resist Global Corporatocracy." Now, you can't send that to someone.

Me: Depends on the someone.

Customer: Maybe you can put it on the wall, but you can't send it to someone.

Me: (shrugs, keeps checking off books)

Customer: (browses cards a minute or two more) Well, thank you.

Me: Thank you for coming by.

Customer: (coming down on each word, sounding like he's correcting me this time) Thank you.


Magpie said...

People are weird.

But those postcards sound cool. And I love Wilkie Collins.

Phantom Scribbler said...

People like that guy are why I didn't last long in retail.

S. said...

What I loved was how he dismissed the whole store without looking at one single bookshelf. My manager's response: he had an ideal bookstore in his mind, and we weren't it.

elswhere said...

Gah, so irritating. We get those in the library too and I agree with your manager: there's stuff they think we should have, and when we don't they just wash their hands of us. And I just keep smiling smiling smiling...

I've started saying "you're very welcome" (mostly warmly, occasionally crisply) instead of thanking people back. But that might be one difference between being a public employee and being in retail; in bookstores I always said "thank you" back to people, too.

Anonymous said...

To reiterate :)
He wasn't looking for a bookstore - he was looking for Borders.

kathy a. said...

gah. first he pushes past actual customers, then he doesn't even browse, and polish it off with rudeness. isn't that the trifecta of bad customer manners?

liz said...

Real life customer I had once: "What? No cappuchino?"