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Customer service 101 | Off the Cuff


Last updated 7/1/2019 at Noon

Recently, a customer came in donning an outfit she had purchased from us several days earlier. She was excited to introduce her friend to our store and tell us how much she liked her new capris and linen blouse.

At lunch she had spilled salad dressing on the blouse and was concerned it would stain. She inquired about removing the stain, so I offered to treat it for her to keep it from setting. Coincidentally, I treated two stains that day.

Oh, what we can do in the name of customer service to go that extra mile, to leave that positive lasting impression.

Ah, there’s those two words: “customer service.”

The phrase that Nordstrom is so famous for coining. The place where I got my quality retail training many years ago. Sorry Amazon ... online shopping will never be as personal. You will never be able to treat a stain on the spot, pardon my pun.

What does it mean today to get service in a memorable way and give it in a mindful one?

For me, it is a major factor in determining what I do and who I do it with. This question is one I have been asking myself lately due to a recent experience, so I set out to do some research. I engaged six research assistants from my fellow downtown Edmonds merchants, two employees, and I, myself, visited several stores in a local mall to gather data.

My fellow merchants answered two questions: How much of a priority is customer service in your store? And how do you practice it?

I am happy to say they all placed customer service as their No 1 priority. Robert Boehlke of HouseWares, since 1999, noted it was the “key to success.” Practicing customer service means listening, greeting, imparting product knowledge, problem solving, referring, fair pricing, and being helpful and friendly in general.

These are some of the basics. I call it Customer Service 101.

An excursion to La Conner, a small community like downtown Edmonds, by two employees, also produced positive impressions. Me at the mall? One “salesperson” there led me through her store and then pointed to the place she expected me to replace the item I had tried on.

Really? In her defense, I had asked her where I found it in the first place ... and she did show me.

Think for a moment about what would happen if we all furthered our customer service skills, whether we worked in shops or not. What would it mean in our families, our communities and our world if we all had master’s degrees in customer service?

What if we all had advanced skills in developing rapport with one another, listening with the intention of being encouraging and supporting, being welcoming to all people, showing genuine care, creating trust and prioritizing healthy relationships?

A great syllabus, no? Then add a healthy dose of mindfulness and voila.

Sandra Roquet, the manager of Starbucks in downtown Edmonds, quoted Howard Behar in her response to my originally posed question when she wrote, “We’re not in the coffee business serving people; we’re in the people business serving coffee.”

And Kimberly Koenig of Rogue wrote in response, “Fashion and boutique shopping are not life necessities. We work hard to create an atmosphere and culture for customers that reflect what Edmonds is and what we want it to be.”

Writing this particular column really inspired me to become a better servant and to continue to work to make a difference for the betterment of our community and life in general. A recent podcast further reminded me just how fortunate I am to be able to do my life’s work through my job, the work of serving others.

Women’s clothing is simply my medium.

We all have great opportunity to serve one another. What a difference it would make if we all chose to cultivate this attitude of service a little bit more. Think I’ll work towards a PhD ... hmmm?

Now, back to work!


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