"So You're Getting Started In Retail"
While many things can be learned from books, from co-workers, from supervisors and from training sessions, some lessons can be learned only after lots of experience, sometimes bitter.
Early in my working career, I spent time delivering newspapers, delivering chicken and blueberry muffins for Chicken Delight, working as a "crew member" at McDonald's and cooking at two Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor Restaurants; all jobs in the "service" industry.
Over the years I have learned many lessons that I would like to pass on to the workers of today who are striving to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Here are a few of those lessons:
- Greet customers with a cheerful "Good Morning," "Good Afternoon," "Good Evening," or whatever phrase your employer wishes. If you can't be "cheerful," try to at least be "polite."
- It costs you nothing to apologize to a customer when there's a problem, even if the problem was not your fault. Then try to move on from there. Apolgize for the delay, or offer a helpful suggestion for a replacement/substitute item or service, or whatever is needed.
- Please read that last one again; it's important.
- Do not talk to your friends on the telephone while customers are waiting.
- Do not answer the telephone and then help that person first while other customers are still waiting in line. Tell the caller you are helping another customer, and will be back to help them as soon as possible.
- Do not talk to your co-workers about what you did last night when customers are waiting.
- Correct responses to "Thank you" include:
The response "No problem" is never correct.
- "You're welcome."
- "My pleasure."
- "Glad to help you."
- "Thank you."
- My music teacher always told me: "If you can't smile, grit your teeth; it looks almost the same."
Thank you, Mrs. Carol Blackorby!
- Always say aloud what currency the customer is giving you to pay for their purchase, i.e. "Your total is $4.50; out of twenty." That acknowledges and confirms what they're handing over to you and eliminates the chances for confusion or disagreement over how much was tendered. (Suggested by P.P.) Some customers will say, "Here is a ten," or whatever, as they hand you the money.
- Learn to count change back. Don't come to depend on the register or computer to figure the change for you. (I once saw a woman at KFC who accidentally cleared the register before she could see what the change for my purchase was. She literally took out a piece of paper and started doing a math calculation to figure out my change!) (Suggested by P.P.)
- If there's a long line waiting to get service from you, it always helps to apologize for the wait. Nothing heavy, just a simple, "Sorry for the long wait," will go far. (Suggested by P.P.)
- If you work in a place where more clerks are available if called, like a grocery store, please take a moment to call for more clerks when there are several people waiting in line. Special Attention: Albertson's, Meridian at Redmond, San Jose. Special Attention: Petco, Meridian at Branham, San Jose.
- It's amazing how many retail workers don't even think about thanking the customer who is spending money to patronize their business. When someone gives you something, you should always thank them. It's no different when they give you their business - say "Thank you!" (Suggested by P.P.)
- If it is important in your line of business for the customer to know who helped them, be sure to wear your name badge, give your name or employee number, or tell the customer your name. It is very frustrating for a customer to call to complain about (or to give a compliment to) an employee when you don't know the employee's name.
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Created on November 25, 1997. Updated on December 3, 2003.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA