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Anna Papachristos | May 2, 2012

Face Value: Why Pleasant Interactions Outweigh Great Pricing

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jeans-customer-shopping-service.jpgSitcom kids from past generations always had a goal in mind. Whether it was Wally and the Beav or Dennis the Menace, they took on after-school and weekend jobs to earn just a few extra pennies so they could afford whatever the episode happened to revolve around that day. They learned the principles of hard work and the value of a dollar. But today, there are far too many teens who care more about when their shift is over than serving the customers who support their paycheck. Their lack of respect and courtesy has a negative and lasting impact on the customer experience.

Consider my recent shopping experience: Over the weekend I made a trip to the mall in search of new pajamas. Having found a cute sleep set right below a sale sign--a mere $10 for a tank top and shorts--I decided to buy now, think later, lest they return to regular price before I made up my mind. But once I reached the register, my fabulous find turned into a belittling nightmare.

The young man working the register rang up my purchase only to tell me my items came to a total of $14.94 plus tax. I immediately mentioned the sign on top of the rack and he looked at me as if I had just replied in a foreign language. With a condescending eye roll and reluctant tone, he went to check the rack for himself. Moments later he returned telling me there was no sign whatsoever. I politely declined to pay full price and walked away.

While the "customer is always right" adage doesn't apply in every case, it's not hard to read a simple sign. (Even if it wasn't meant to be there, they are still obligated to honor the deal... in most of my experiences, anyway.) However, to make the customer feel like a fool regardless of who was right reflects poorly on the company and poorly on that particular employee especially.

Those who directly interact with the customers are the face of that given company. Value doesn't solely stem from the discounts throughout the store, but the quality of one's interaction, as well. Businesses must be sure that these frontline employees are not degrading the experience for loyal customers--quality control should not just apply to the products sold.

This single employee sent me heading for the next store on my journey because he treated me like some sort of slick criminal instead of an honest customer. We need to bring back the old-fashioned values that dominated 1950s television. We need to remember that respect builds trust, and trust builds loyalty. And loyalty, as we all know, lays the foundation for a long-lasting customer relationship.

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