Love the one you’re with

Q. I sympathize with M.S. who works at a customer service counter in Gardner, Kansas and was annoyed by customers’ use of cell phones in stores. However, I would like to point a finger at service people who have similar rude behaviors toward customers:
1) retail clerks who answer a phone call and make me wait while they take down a telephone order and even hunt through stock to accommodate the person on the phone;
2) the check out clerks who keep their fingers on their cell phones, texting personal messages instead of scanning the items I am waiting to purchase.


H.B., Brookline, MA

I sympathize with your frustration. One time I waited patiently for a sales clerk to finish with a customer. Just as he was about to turn to me, his cell phone rang. It was a customer asking a question, and the ensuing conversation lasted for ten minutes. In essence, the clerk let the phone customer “cut the line.” When the clerk finally ended the call and turned to me, I asked him why he took the call rather than working with me. His answer: “My phone rang, I had to answer it.” So I informed him he had just lost a sale, and I was going to his competitor instead.

It’s also frustrating when clerks text and talk on the phone while checking customers out. Even if they’re capable of multi-tasking, their focus isn’t on making the customer experience a positive one. Here’s where business etiquette comes in. Businesses should set and clearly articulate customer service standards that promote positive customer interactions, and then enforce them. A smile, a pleasant greeting, an efficient effort, and a heartfelt thank you will go a long way toward ensuring repeat business. So will limiting personal use of cell phones for calls or texting and focusing on the customer who has made the effort to come to the store over the customer who calls and “cuts the line.” In my case, had the sales clerk answered the phone and said, “I’m with a customer right now. May I have your name and number and call you right back?” he would have made the sale.

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