Business and work Mindsets

I walked into the @PicknPay Hyper to return a bag of oranges

I walked into the Pick n Pay Hyper in the Norwood Mall with the bag of oranges we bought over the weekend. I didn’t have the receipt but I still had the tag and an image of my wife’s Smart Shopper Card. Like most of the oranges we buy from this store, many of the oranges in each bag were rotten but given the size of the bag and the R16 to R20 price tag, I suppose that is the risk you take. If you go to Woolies, you pay about R19 for a bag half the size (even if rotten oranges in Woolies bags are pretty rare).

I walked up to the Customer Service counter and my first shock was how quickly the lady behind the counter saw me and greeted me (with a smile too!). She started to ask me how she can help me, noticed the oranges, frowned and asked me if I was dissatisfied with the oranges. The argument I prepped in my mind evaporated, her concern disarmed it and, for a few moments, I had no words. She smiled patiently and I found my voice again.

“Um, yes, my wife bought these oranges over the weekend and many of them seem, well, I’m not happy with the quality …”

I hoisted the bag of oranges on to the counter and she lifted bag, looked quickly at the oranges, scanned the tag and placed them down behind the counter in a large basket. She looked up at me and uttered words I simply didn’t expect to hear in that store:

“I’m sorry you are not happy with these oranges. I will let the department manager know as soon as I have sorted you out and we’ll make an effort not to let you down again.”

She gave me a small form to fill out with my details, processed the refund and handed me a gift card with the balance credited to it.

“Thank you for returning these oranges to us and letting us know you are unhappy with them. Please let me know if you are dissatisfied with anything else and we’ll do our best to address it.”

I was floored. Almost all my previous interactions with this store’s staff have been either neutral or aggravating. It has almost been as if the store staff decided that because they are probably the best option in the area when it comes to price and stock (well, mostly), they don’t have to bother much with decent service and basic courtesy. I was really expecting an argument when I entered. I expected to leave the store irritated, offended even. Instead I wandered back into the store, picked up some additional items and, on my way out (I was still in a bit of a daze – even the cashier was friendly) the lady at the Customer Service counter smiled again and waved as I left.

The weird thing was the sound of a child’s voice calling me as I walked out and I couldn’t quite work out what it was until I woke up and realised it was our daughter calling me, asking for a drink of water.

As I rolled out of bed and went to her room, I could still feel the euphoria from my dream. If only my experiences in that store were so pleasant …

Business and work Mindsets

I'm your customer, don't ignore me

One thing that bugs me when I walk into a retail store is when the people purportedly assisting me with my purchase or query don’t actually engage with me. By “engage” I mean talk to me when there is a problem of some description or respond to my queries by answering me. Instead store staff seem to have developed a tendency to discuss issues with each other and only communicate with me when its time to pay.

With all the attention on giving customers better and more personal feedback on social media, retailers shouldn’t forget that the in person engagements happening daily in their stores are perhaps more important and receive less attention. As customers we don’t necessarily need to be treated like royalty (although retailers that do treat their customers well differentiate themselves), store staff should begin with talking to customers, looking them in the eye and actually engaging with them.

I had an experience this morning at Woolworths in Design Quarter which is another good example. The cashier rang up my latte purchase. The price is R23 and she charged my card 23c, leaving a balance of R22,77. I only realized there was a problem when I looked up from my phone and saw a balance due on the till’s display. The cashier hadn’t said anything to me and was discussing the issue with a colleague. I asked if she had charged the wrong amount and the colleague confirmed this. The cashier then added another R23 to the total and wanted to charge me the balance and give me cash back to cover the extra amount charged. I told her she should get a supervisor to authorize the excess R23’s removal and charge me the balance due so she went off to find someone. She didn’t let me know there was an issue and left it up to me to figure it out and wait patiently for her to figure something out. When the supervisor arrived he didn’t bother engaging with me either so I just left some cash and walked out the store with my purchase.

A far more effective approach would have been to let me know she had made a mistake when she made it and let me know what she was doing to fix it. When she couldn’t the supervisor should have done that. Its not difficult, just courteous and decent customer service.