When a customer asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, how do you respond? Customer service is everyone’s responsibility. However, as Canity founder Kym Illman has experienced on numerous occasions, not all team members are eager to take up that responsibility.

Here are two stories of poor customer service interactions from Kym’s recent travels.

“I don’t think so…”

After walking through the menswear section of a national department store for quite some time, I eventually came across a sales assistant.

“Hi, do you sell Diesel jeans?” I asked the young woman.

“Hmmm… I’m not sure,” she replied. “I don’t think so.”

“Well, who’d know?”

“You could try someone over there,” she advised, pointing at a different department.

This sort of response is a joke.

“I don’t think so” is a lazy, ridiculous response that gives a customer nothing to work with. Customers want “yes” or “no” answers – nothing less. And if it’s a “no,” they’d appreciate an alternative or a suggestion on where they could go to get a “yes.”

The real tragedy? The next time someone asks that woman if her company sells Diesel jeans, she still won’t know the answer. This behaviour brands her as lazy and self-focused.

She was only interested in getting rid of me. She had no interest in helping me and, ultimately, selling me something – an outcome that would benefit her in the long run.

If she continues to drive customers away with lacklustre responses and a disinterested attitude like the one I received, she will eventually have no customers left and may see herself searching for a new job.

This woman needs training. She needs to understand what real customer service is about, how to provide it, and how poor service hurts business. Until then, she’s more of a liability than an asset.


“You could ask the manager…”

Picture a duty-free store in Doha Airport. It was busy, but there were plenty of staff around. I found a sales assistant and asked if he had a particular brand of perfume.

“I’m not sure,” he responded. “I work in the wine and spirits section.”

“Well, who’d know?” I asked.

“You’d need to speak to one of the perfume people,” he said, before he started to walk towards that department.

At this point, I thought he was going to take charge and sort things out. But as we got a few metres away from a colleague, however, he turned to me and said, “You could ask the manager,” before pointing to the other staff member.

Puzzled, I looked at him and asked, “So, you want me to repeat what I just asked you?” But it was too late; he’d already turned his back and was returning to his domain.

He took the time to partly walk me over to his colleague, so why didn’t he go the whole way? Why didn’t he explain my situation to his colleague, so they could take over the sale? I have no idea. But it’s clear that no one has taken the time to train him in how to handle such situations.

He had an opportunity to make a powerful, positive impression by introducing me to his colleague and explaining the situation. For example, “Terry, this gentleman is interested in a bottle of Obsession. Can I leave you with him to sort that out?” Instead, I had to repeat myself to someone new, which wasted my time and forced me, the customer, to do his job for him.

Simple things like this make a huge difference in how customers perceive your organisation and, ultimately, how much you sell.


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