Sunday, November 27, 2005

Closing Time

While visiting my son in Chicago, I went to a Cingular wireless store in his neighborhood to get some help with his phone. The store I walked into was closing in 5 minutes. I was welcomed into the store like a long lost friend. I explained what I needed (which took a lot of ingenuity and patience) The customer service representative was amazing. He figured out how to fix the problem. This was NOT a quick fix at all. He needed to remove a sim card from his telephone and put it my son’s phone and then switch it back again. This took a few switches to get it right. All the time he was smiling and chatting. It was now 15 minutes after closing and I was feeling guilty. After all I hadn’t bought my phone from this store, nor was it likely that I would in the future. When I said “Thanks, but I can see I am keeping you from closing up and going home.” He let me know that closing time was when everyone in the store had their issues resolved. WOW!!! And he meant it! We stayed there for at least 30 minutes past closing time. And I wasn’t the only customer still there. His manager was setting up an account for another customer. Again, he was smiling and perfectly happy to be helping his customer. So what impact did that have on me and how I viewed Cingular? Simply put it made me want to buy from this store specifically, but it had a more global impact. It made me glad that I was a Cingular customer (not something that I always feel.)

Two days ago I had a very different experience. I went into a store that was part of a chain. It was 6:57 and the store closed at 7:00.There were four other customers in line. I was greeted with “We are closed now! You have to leave!” “WHAT???” I thought. I still have 3 minutes time left. The manager explained that when they were through “dealing” with the customers that were already in que that it would put them PAST their closing time. So even though the store was “technically” still open, the existing customers would make it so an additional customer would throw them past the time they could go home.

Was this a reasonable rule? Perhaps, it would be considered reasonable if you were an employee-centric business. I am not sure however you can grow a business being employee-centric in THIS manner. As a customer I would be more understanding if you said to me; “I am so sorry, my kid is sick and I have to get home to take care of him.” Then I have the choice of being generous and saying “no problem.” But telling me to leave was simply enforcing a rule for rules sake. It said to me that as your customer I have no value. Believe me I left there with the intention of NEVER coming back!

Walking into a business a few minutes before closing time will give you great insight into how much you are valued as a customer and a human being.

But of course you know I am going to challenge you to look at the messages you give your customers. How do you act when your customers come in at the last minute? If you want to keep them coming back and telling their friends and family about you, you need to welcome your customers whenever they arrive at your business.


Anonymous said...

Question: Have you visited any of the chain stores since your "leave were closed" visit?

There's many chain stores from time to time I feel like saying "I'm never coming back". But unfortunately because of pressure from my children or product selection and maybe even PRICE I end up returning.

I think that large chain companys feel that they have an unlimited supply of consumers. So they treat consumers just the way the feel "there's another right behind you" attitude!

Anonymous said...

Why on Earth do you make a habit of visiting stores at closing time? Having worked in retail, I can safely say that it is a two-way street. Yes, customers should be afforded respect and consideration; but so too should retail workers. Entering a store knowing that you will be keeping them back shows no consideration whatsoever.

You raise the issue of the value given to customers 'as human beings' at the last minute. Perhaps you should question how much value you give store-workers as human beings; perhaps they have things to do after work, being as they are not robots.

Anonymous said...

I work at major store myself when it says 8:00 pm i close it does not matter if customer comes at 8:01 i'm still not letting them in because i have responsibilities like closing my till and reconciling my drawer, if i got money all over the place. Customer service is over at closing time.

You can't let customers in after closing time to due safety.

Anonymous said...

Are you not intelligent enough - not to mention empathetic enough - to realize that retail employees have a great many procedural tasks to accomplish in wrapping up the business day (often pressured to get it all done in a half-hour so as not to incur overtime wages to the company?)

Therefore, your waltzing in at 5 minutes to closing is highly stress-producing and irritating. Do you actually fantasize that you're going to get optimum service at that time? Please. Do us all a favor and plan your shopping day more sensibly.

Your attitude implies that at the end of the business day, retail employees have no outside lives whatsoever, and they have nothing better to do than to hover subserviently around Your Highness for as long as Your Highness may wish --- all other responsibilities, duties, and obligations be damned.

It has to be all about YOU, doesn't it, not ever about the employees who have dogs straining to pee outside, kids needing to be picked up from school, elders wanting their suppers, or spouses expecting a mutual welcoming hug at the end of their mutual hard days.

Bottom line: don't you be the cause of a hard day. That's not good karma at all.