Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Encountering an ‘Endangered Species’

Occasionally we hear about endangered species -- birds or mollusks on the brink of extinction. Advocates plea for the species, fearing its loss to nature and subsequent impact on the ecosystem.

Recently I encountered an endangered species – at a cell phone store. Having just purchased a new phone online, I wanted phone contacts and photos transferred from my old phone. The customer service rep not only greeted and signed me in, but also walked me through the steps to get my phone set up for immediate use.

She readily answered my questions and, perhaps sensing my extremely low-tech capabilities, explained nuances of my new phone and helped download new ringtones. All without making me feel like an annoyance or imposition on her time.

What this affable young woman was displaying has become an endangered species in the world of retail: Customer service!

At stores across America, in the name of cost-savings, customer service has been minimized, if not eliminated. I never liked salespeople that hovered over you, but it would be nice being able to find one when you need one.

So it was pleasantly surprising to find an indulgent cell phone salesperson – especially since I already had my phone and simply wanted it operational.

Essentially this person was manifesting the so-called “Golden Rule,” what also has been termed the “ethic of reciprocity”: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). I suspect if roles were switched, she would appreciate similar treatment.

With many stores bemoaning subpar sales, perhaps they should restore good customer service – even if it requires hiring additional staff. A business adage is sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if retailers did that again?

They might save a “species” from extinction – even revitalize the retail ecosystem!

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