Avoid behaving like these retail giants to increase customer engagement

You know those days when you just want to shake someone silly… well I had one of those days.  You see I had not one but two disappointing experiences as a customer in one day.  The first one was with our local Staples store and my experience gets an A+ for doing many things wrong… or an F for actually making me happy to spend my money there.

Surprised Businesswoman - IsolatedIt all started on Saturday night when I submitted a file to two Staples stores (one locally and the other in another part of the province, both for pick up).  This file is extremely valuable and extremely time sensitive… it is the draft copy of the first part of my Guerrilla Marketing book tentatively titled “Guerrilla Tourism Marketing  – Increase your profits | Delight your customers | Inspire your employees.”  The irony, of course, being that my experience will not increase their profits, it did not delight their customer and their employees were not inspired to sort the problem.

The mistakes… in chronological order by vendor

I submitted my order on Saturday and received email confirmations (expected).  Given that my order was less than $75 and knowing that the copy center was open on weekends, I expected that the order would be processed by Sunday.  The other Staples order was completed and an email was received at  “Date: Sun, Jun 17, 2012 at 12:32 PM / Subject: Staples Copy & Print Online – Your order #xxxxxxxx is complete and ready for pick up”.

However, I did not receive an email for the copies I ordered locally.  So, I went to the copy centre just before 5pm on Sunday only to be told that their copier was broken and that the file had been sent to Vancouver.  Okay, hold on…. no-one at Staples could email me or call to tell me this in advance?  Strike one.  I was told to come back at either 10 or 11am on Monday when their delivery would be received.

Monday was a crazy busy day for me, so just before 7pm I checked online to see if there was an update and nope, there wasn’t, but I did now see a message that the copier was broken.  So I called the store and pressed the various numbers to get to the copy centre.  Hmmm… everyone was with customers and no one was able to take my call, although it appeared that the call bounced from the copy centre to another line.  So I hung up and phoned back.  This time I did not choose the copy centre option but I did choose customer service and this is when the customer disservice really kicked in.

I had the unpleasant experience of dealing with Shelley (who I confirmed today is part of the management team).  I told her my name and explained that I was trying to reach the copy centre.  I asked if they were available now.  Shelley informed me that the copy centre closed at 7pm.  I told her that I had been waiting for a copy order placed on Saturday and that I was told that it would come in at 10 or 11am on Monday. She asked for my name.   I told her that I hadn’t received an email or phone call to inform me of the status of the order.  I told her that this was a very important document and that I needed it due to a book deadline.  I went on to say that I knew the printer was broken but I didn’t really care.  Their problems should not be my problem and something should have been done (hmmm… perhaps printing it on a colour printer might have worked since 99% of the copy in the document was black anyway… now that would be thinking of the customer first!)

She asked for my name (seriously, she’d heard it 2x already).  She told me that the printer was fixed on Monday.  When I said something snarky she told me to watch my tone…. Well, that would be strike two….  You see, I don’t really care that she doesn’t know what goes on in the copy centre, nor do I care about their machine problems.  I don’t care that they have to send orders to Vancouver  “hub” in the situation where the order couldn’t be filled and I really don’t care that the copy centre person had left 2 minutes before I called the first time.

I told her that she was not at all helpful along with all those things that I really don’t care about.  I became so exasperated by her lack of … hmmm… customer service, empathy, support, willingness to do what it takes (that’s as an employee, let alone a manager) that I said to her “Why didn’t they just print my file on the freaking printer then?”.  To which she said “What did you say?” to which I replied “I said, why don’t they just print my file on the freaking printer”, to which she said “That’s not what you said” and to which I responded “Oh yes, that’s what I said”.  Okay… what was that now, strike three???… so then she asked for my name AGAIN and she told me that Ann would phone in the morning.

A short while later, a perky little voice called me to say that they had found my order in the “hub” box and that I could pick it up.  Right, that’s great that Shelley didn’t call back…. Instead she delegated.  Nice… any person that works with me (manager or not) would have their ass in a sling if they pulled a stunt like that!… strike four.

But wait… that’s not all… today I went to Staples at just before 9am to discover signs on the door that “due to reasons beyond their control it was cash only”.  Strike five.  So, I entered anyway and was greeted by the cashier who told me that it was cash-only because their machines were down.  I asked her where to go to get cash and off I went to a bank that charged me $1.50 to withdraw cash because I didn’t bank with them.

So, money in hand, I went to the copy centre.   I’ve had more than enough by now… but I kept my cool and explained the entire situation and got a better response than any I’d received so far … which was an “I don’t know why you didn’t get a call, someone obviously dropped the ball yesterday” with some concern in her voice.

However,  there was another missed opportunity… she didn’t immediately offer anything to make this up to me.  Strike six Eventually she offered a 20% discount, which was the best she could do.  I took it but decided that I’d help them to avoid this situation in the future.

6 Strikes = 6 Lessons


Lesson #1.

If the machine is broken, use another one… even if it means a colour copier instead of a black and white one.  The little “perk” would be that I got to see the coloured bits in colour and I would not be inconvenienced.

Lesson #2.

If rules are so strictly enforced that you’d lose your job or be reprimanded because you are trying to delight your customers, either speak up to get the rules changed or find another job because no business that cares about their customers has rules that will send their customers to a competitor.  Attn: Management find some common sense and give employees the ability to make the situation acceptable to the customer.

Lesson #3.

Tell your customers when things go wonky and you cannot live up to your promise.  Twice, this team failed to show an ounce of customer service let alone saying “hey, we have a problem but I’d like to do this instead”


Don’t hire people that cannot work with an upset customer to resolve an issue.  And here’s a bonus… only hire people that can remember a simple name like “Carol Wain”.


Communicate…. There is no excuse why my situation wasn’t noted on the front of my file with a message left for the employee to make things right.

Lesson #6.

If there are things out of your control (such as your debit/credit card machines being out of service) offer a token of appreciation for coming to the store.  Yes, donuts and coffee or fruit and juice are not going to make it right if I have to leave to find a bank machine but the thought would be appreciated.  However, what would have been even better is a discount to compensate me for the bank fees and additional effort it required to get the bank and back.

Now onto my next you-didn’t-win-any-awards-today customer experience

I had a craving for a Safeway hot sandwich, so at about 11:30 I made a trek to pick up lunch.  Well, Kim was a bit frazzled in the sandwich part of the deli.  I got the distinct feeling that I was interrupting her day as she didn’t smile or attempt any interaction (other than the questions “what type of bread” “6 inches” and “as it comes”). Strike 1

She then informed me that she didn’t have time to cut the onions so would I like something else.  I said sure “I’ll have the red peppers”.  Ha… good luck trying to get her to give me those coveted roasted red peppers to make up for the fact that she couldn’t make the sandwich “as it comes”.  No way, if I wanted red peppers they’d cost a dollar.   Strike 2

Needless to say I didn’t get my onions or red peppers.  Instead she worked away on the two sandwiches, told the next person in line that she’d get to her when she could  Strike 2.5 (since it wasn’t me but it was someone else) and that was that.

Eventually another gal came over and started the sandwich for the next in line but the vibe from Kim told me that she was working alone for a reason.

Kim did make good use of her time by ringing in my purchase while the sandwiches toasted.  I give her credit for that!

Kim asked if I needed a bag, to which I said “yes”.  She pulled one out, opened it and left it on the counter.   “Like I’m going to pack my own sandwiches”, said the bitchy side of me. Strike 3

Anyway, eventually the deli manager came over and asked Kim if I was rung in.  She put the sandwiches, drinks and chips in the bag… and then I told her that I was disappointed that I couldn’t have onions with my sandwich.

It was a test, I grant you that.  However, I wanted to see how it would be handled.   She turned to Kim who told her that yes, there were no onions as she didn’t have time to cut them.   The deli manager said that she would go and cut some onions for “on the side” if I’d like.  I just said “no, it’s too late” and left to come back and write a blog post.  I will give the deli manager credit, although it was most definitely too little, too late.

3 Strikes = 3 Lessons


Lesson #1.

Grumpy-pants people need to put on their happy face when they come to work.   That’s what you are being paid for.

Lesson #2.

There were 3 gals in the deli plus the deli manager.  Everyone should be helping each other.  If onions were not cut by 11:30 and the lunch rush was about to start, then someone somewhere needs to cut the freaking onions.  (yes, I said “freaking” just like I did last night!)

Lesson #3.

I know that secret shoppers shop at Safeway as I know people who work in another Safeway deli.   Every customer should be treated as if they were a secret shopper because they all are… each and every one of us has the ability to write a review and post it forever on the internet…. Whether on a blog post like this or on a review site.

On the positive side, the gal, Krista, at the liquor store cracked a joke with me.  The gas attendant at Costco waved and smiled… and held a conversation with another customer…. And a pedestrian waved and smiled as I stopped to let him cross the street….

See, it makes a difference when you smile 🙂

Let’s hear from you… what lessons would you give to the people that you bought from today?  What kudos would you give out too?  Please leave your comments below.

About the Author

Carol Wain is the founder and leader of many brands which help leaders to create more profitable businesses that transform lives and positively impact our planet. She is an author, speaker, trusted advisor and mentor who won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.

Carol is passionate about reinventing business to become a force for good — positive businesses which respect, appreciate, encourage and support the right employees who voluntarily use their discretionary effort to bring the vision, purpose, platform, personality, passion and core values to life; businesses which create useful, meaningful and valuable products, services and experiences which improve the lives of people; and businesses which support communities, take a stand and have a higher purpose.

For more information visit CarolWain.com, EnlightenedCapitalist.org, and WorldIncentiveNetwork.com