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Vacation Visits Lesson in Customer Service

Owning your own business means simply not getting away for holidays when you like. Despite now being officially empty-nesters, and despite wanting to celebrate a wedding anniversary of some numerical significance; the best we could do was three nights in New York and Pennsylvania in August. So when a whole week opened up in September, we hopped in the car and headed for Michigan.

One of our stops was Bronner’s Christmas World, where I’m told that, even on a slow day, there are 300 people working the sales floor, offices, and shipping department; and that the electrical bill is $1,250 per day.  This place has a very powerful Christian witness — in the store’s name on signs and billboard’s the spelling is always CHRISTmas — there is no mistaking their beliefs. Every customer package, every shipment and every item of mail that leaves the facility contains a gospel tract; they give out over a million each year, though the one we got — God Bless America — was somewhat inappropriate for we Canadians.

We also got to visit two different locations of Family Christian Stores, and both there and at Bronner’s we were reminded what superior customer service looks like:  (a) genuinely interested in helping, (b) knowledgeable about various types of products and interests, (c) naturally friendly and cheerful, (d) willing to go the extra mile. 

Customers at Family stores are invited to consider child sponsorship and it amazed me how the clerk at the store at Port Huron was able to (a) slip in that sponsorship promotion and (b) offer customers extra impulse items despite having a lineup of people.  In Saginaw, one sales associate found himself working alone with (a) both phone lines holding with inquiries, (b) a Bible that needed imprinting, which they do on-site and (c) a customer with about forty items; and yet, he never got flustered, there was never the tension you might expect in that retail situation.

I generally don’t do conventions, but enjoy dropping into stores associated with major instead, where product offerings from vendors have already been filtered. We make a few notes and then get back in the car. This time around we got to see a living customer service seminar acted out before our eyes. It’s a service standard we all need to shoot for.

So how do your store employees rank in each of these areas:

  • genuinely customer-focused; people-focused?
  • product knowledge in all departments?
  • overall attitude and approach?
  • willingness to give 200%?
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