We’ve all heard about rude customers, but what about rude staff? Sue Hook asks the question, are your staff driving away paying customers?
Recently I shopped at a local bakery. They are small and very local and rely mainly on the town residents for their business. The young lady behind the counter was surly and definitely not ‘bothered’. I watched as the customers in the queue in front of me were treated to her off hand manner and deliberate obtuseness when taking their money. Her colleague, meanwhile, was working her butt off, smiling, chatting to regulars and working twice as quickly and happily. I hoped I got her, but of course I got the surly one.
Standing in front of her, there was an uncomfortable hiatus whilst I waited for her to look at me, which she eventually deigned to do. I was a bit cheesed off by then but chatted about how busy it was this lunchtime, wondering if this was the reason for her manner. The shoulder shrug would have made anyone with Gallic heritage proud. Now, I’m always happy to give feedback and it’s usually of the positive kind, but on this occasion I really couldn’t help myself. So I gave her the opportunity to listen to some of my wisdom along the lines of, she was there to serve customers, if she wasn’t happy meeting people then she might like to work in a windowless shed somewhere, that I was paying her wages and frankly she hadn’t earned it – plus other choice phrases much along the same lines.
Although a minor irritation in the grand scheme of things, this exchange did get me thinking about the relationship between the shop assistant or waiting staff, the customer and the overall business. I find it hard to understand why some owners of shops, bars, hotels and restaurants fail to recognise how important their staff are when dealing with customers and how this impacts on the success of their business. I believe there is a direct correlation between having great staff and having a great business.
Treating customers with basic civility must be a given for any business. It takes nothing to smile, make eye contact and engage with customers; just a bit of thought. The customer experience is then completely different and this small exchange will be appreciated. It is not just about this little bit of interaction. It is about an approach and attitude where staff truly believe their responsibility is to make and keep their customers happy. So happy, that they will return and buy again. This in turn, translates to happy and increased number of customers, more spend and ultimately a successful business. Yes I know that this appears very simplistic but the connection between staff and a successful business is undoubted.
Getting the right staff, with the right attitude is a challenge but is worth the effort, as the difference this will make to any business is tangible. My personal mantra when recruiting is to recruit for attitude and train for skill. It is always possible to train staff to operate a till, for example, but if they don’t have the right approach and attitude in the first place, all the training in the world will not change this.
About the author:
Sue is the founder and managing director of Hayle-based human resources consultancy, Sapience HR.