Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
December 1, 2012

Question: Yesterday we were fairly busy at my store, and a customer approached a part-time salesperson and asked where they could find a certain product we had advertised. I heard her say, “It’s right over there” and point. I know she was busy, but I was dismayed, especially after all my talk about good customer service. Big sigh. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: Good customer service has many facets and it takes a lot of training to cover them all, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Training is an ongoing process, especially when you have turnover in your staff. On a positive note, you can use this incident as a training example, without naming names.

When you talk about good customer service, do you offer specific examples? It’s always best to give examples, particularly in the form of role-playing. Have two employees play out the scenario you described and then ask the “customer” how she feels. Dismissed? Frustrated? Next, offer a sample script of how you would like the scene to play out. Offer suggestions of better responses, such as: “Follow me. I can show you right where it is.” Or, “I’m busy right at the moment, but I can call someone else to help you.” Or, “It’s on the third shelf against the wall. Please give me a moment, and I will be right there to help you.” In all those cases, the customer will feel acknowledged, and even if they have to wait, they have been treated with courtesy and respect.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to