The Running Commentary

Customer is king but the shop assistants think NOT!


This post has been brewing for some time.

I along with many millions of South Africa’s braved the shopping malls during the past festive season to spend some really hard earned cash. I was really astounding by the level of customer service that we received from the various shop assistants out there. By astounded let me say, not in a good way.

For my sins, I did most of my shopping at a venue called Canal Walk, which is one of a plethora of shopping centres in Cape Town. During this time I, together with my family, must have shopped at around 22 stores in the centre, these ranged from general retailers, to specialist retailers. Without exception each store had some sort of an “assistant” to help with your purchase and with only two exceptions (Adidas Concept Store and Home) the service we received from the people on the floor was shocking to say the least. In three instances, we left our intended purchases as result of the poor service and purchased alternative items.

This post has nothing to do with the individual retailers at Canal Walk, but everything to do with the fact that the training of these assistants have failed. The store owners need, particularly in a down turned economic situation,  to focus on ensuring the their floor staff are professional and friendly at all times. I also think that they need to be rotated often to ensure that they remain fresh. Many of the people, when we asked them how long they had been on the floor, stated that they had completed several shifts of 8 hours or more with around 30 minutes break. While this is probably fine within a office environment, this is crazy in a busy retail environment.

Two things that I found completely unacceptable and was astounded that they could even have happened. 1) One of the assistants that served us had clearly been on a bender the previous night and still smelled (really badly) after the event. This young lady was at the till and every customer picked it up. 2) I purchased some cash card vouchers and while I understand the need to be FICA compliant (as they are visa cards), the staff tasked with selling these cards could have made more of an effort to explain the process. We were asked to complete a photocopied piece of paper with the Headline FICA details. I asked the folk what happened to these in terms of security, which none of them could answer. I was eventually given the answer that the documents are “shredded” after they have been captured.

The long and the short of it is that I think that the retailers need to focus on some staff training and if the feeling is that enough training has been provided, then there must be a focus on monitoring. If I left intended purchases behind, then others must have done the same. Assistants should not be having private conversation with each other and should be focused on their clients.

So today I am awarding the dung ball to the many shop assistants out there who did not offer great service to me, and you know what I am the client so I can !!!! 

customer serviceRetailersShop AssistantsShopping Centre

Mike • January 12, 2009

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