The Customer’s Perception Is Your Reality

Conestoga Wagon on Oregon Trail

Every year, we plan a Memorial Day trip to Philly to visit with my family.

It’s a great opportunity for my kids to be with their cousins and for us to eat some Korean food. But it’s an 8 hour drive. With 3 kids going on a half-day trek, we have to plan and pack strategically. Thankfully we have the mini-van. I don’t care what people say, I absolutely love mini-vans. Like a second home on wheels.

This year was different. Two days before we were to leave, I found out the the A/C wasn’t working. Only the heat worked (of course). With 90+ degree weather in our future and a week in the car, this was not happening.

So like a Conestoga Wagon headed off on the Oregon Trail, my family and I packed all our worldly treasures into my car. And thankfully because we save everything, I was able to locate two of our portable DVD players. One problem, only one of the AC Adapters worked. Kill me now.

No problem – any place that sells portable DVD players should have a car charger.

My wife prefers Target, so that’s where I went. Not a waiting customer service rep to be found.  Everyone I tried to flag down was busy going somewhere else with other employees. Whatever happened to employees being in their respective departments looking for ways to help customers?

No one was in the electronics department. There was no call button either. I balked at going to look for someone for fear of missing an employee returning to his station.

15 minutes later, I ventured out to housewares. By sheer luck, I was able to flag down a red shirt with khaki pants and explained my situation. Her name was Peggy. She told me to go back to the electronics department and to wait for Stuart. He was the expert. I explained that in the past 15 minutes, no one came. Plenty of customers came and went, but no Stuart.

She got on her walkie-talkie and summoned a young teenage high school student who looked like a young Bill Gates. Stuart came out from behind us as if waiting to be announced.

Pointing to me, Peggy asked Stuart, “can you help this customer?”

Not looking at me, he asked “what does he need?”

I spoke, “he needs a portable DVD car charger adapter that can…”

Stuart abruptly cuts me off, “we don’t carry those.”

But don’t you sell…

“Nope. Don’t have those anymore. No one sells those anymore.”

Well, do you have any recommendations on where I should go?

“Have you ever heard of the internet?”

I thought I was going to slap some pimples right off his freckled cheeks.

I simply turned and walked away, vowing not to return.

I drove straight over to Walmart (gasp!) and was greeted by 3 separate employees that asked if they could help. I was directed to the electronics department where a very knowledgeable Erin was able to assist me with the various options I had available to me.

There was an array of different chargers with adjustable voltage readings. She recommended a few options and was even able to check me out at her station, rather than having to go back to the front of the store.

I personally thanked her for her assistance, and thought this is where I will come first for future electronics needs. Totally different customer experience.

I thought about this later on and replayed the scenario in my head. There were a few observations:

  1. If your customer is asking for help, they’re already stressed because they can’t find what they need. Trust me, the last thing we want is to bother an employee. We’d rather find our item and get out.
  2. Little things that matter. Let your customer finish his question before you jump in and interrupt them. Look at them when you speak.
  3. Don’t insult your customer. Yes, we’ve heard of the internet. But if we’re taking the time and effort to come to your store – then we obviously have our reasons.

“The customer’s perception is your reality.” ~ Kate Zabriskie

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