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Customer Service- Customer Satisfaction

Updated on March 18, 2011

Customer Service

Working in Customer service can be a most rewarding job or it can be a most difficult job, depending on your outlook. There are plenty of people working with the public who truly have no business doing so. Eventually it will come to them, they will leave finding other employment.

During a seminar at K-Mart many years ago, we listened to a speaker in regards to customers. Within K-Mart, customer service was upper most in importance. It’s been many years since I have worked there but I still remember the some words of our speaker. The thing that sticks out most in my mind is this; “For every 100 customers you will get, 99 of them are going to be pleasant and you will soon forget them. That 1 irate customer, you will never forget.”

How true that statement is. After 28 years I still remember with clarity his face and his contempt for me, my supervisor and finally our store manager. I was called every bad name under the sun, as was my Supervisor. When she saw that there was nothing either of us could do to placate this man, she called the store Manager. Even that did not seem to please him.

That 1 Irate customer

It really should have been an easily handled situation and I truly did my best, he was just not in the mood to be understanding or helpful, in anyway, shape or from.  Every week when K-Mart had a new ad came out, most of the sale items were put in the Midway (center of the store) with new stickers on them that had a PLU (price look up) number that was coded into the registers.  They did this first as a convenience for the customer coming in for those sale items.  The rest of the items on shelves getting new tags the day after the sale started.

As Cashiers we did our best to memorize what items were on sale but when a new sale came every week, we had to adjust mentally and it took a bit.  To assist us in this we had Ads placed at all the registers, in the ad beside each item was the PLU number.  This day was the first day of the sale and the customer had spent his entire shopping time going thru the store getting the items off the shelves rather than the Midway.  Therefore NONE of his items were marked with the PLU sticker.

The first item I rang up he stated “That’s on sale”.  I called for a void (in those days you had to have assistance) got out my paper and found the PLU number, rang that up correctly.  The next item the same thing.  At this point I apologized to the customer.  My apology was “I’m sorry, the sale just started today and I have only been here at work about 15 minutes (very true) and I haven’t had a chance to look at the Ads, so I’m not sure what is on sale”.  That should have sufficed.  It did not.

Rather than assist me by telling me which items were on sale, so I could look them up for the correct price, he continued letting me ring up the wrong price.  Telling me afterward, then I had to call for a ‘void’.   My void card was getting fuller by the minute, my line was getting longer and my customer was getting angrier.  I certainly was feeling some frustration as well. 

Where he went wrong

Eventually Bonnie, my supervisor stood by my side watching me ring up an item only to get it wrong, then get yelled at by this customer, for getting the price wrong.  I asked her if she wanted to take this one.  She told me “No, you’re doing fine.”  After about 20 voids, he was extremely irate.  Even Bonnie tried explaining to him the ad just started, how could we possibly know what was on sale?  She told him “Please, just tell us which items are on sale, I can look them up”.  He said “That isn’t my job” (there were a lot of other obscenities thrown in, but they don’t bear repeating) 

He began calling me names in regards to my intelligence as a female dog.  Then Bonnie came under attack with the same names.  Finally Bonnie could take it no longer, and called for the Big Guy, the head honcho.  He came and the man said “Ah, finally someone that has a head on their shoulder”  (Apparently he didn’t like women that day)  When he tried explaining to the Store Manager about my ‘lack of intelligence as a female dog’ once again, it was not taken kindly.
Eventually he was ejected from the store with the admonition never to return.  Now that was some SUPER backing from my boss if I ever saw it.  He stood up for me and my Supervisor, and defended us.  That type of backing doesn’t usually happen, I’m glad it did.  It kept up my spirits and kept me in the world of dealing with the public.

Customer is always right

What should you do when faced with an irate customer? First and foremost, keep your head! Do not get snippy with them no matter what they say or do. Make your apologies if necessary, sometimes just apologizing for even an imagined slight will help you. Most situations can be handled this way.

Most companies have a policy “The Customer is always right” Your customer is your life line, without them you have no sales and with no sales you have no job. Always keep this in mind when dealing with the public. Customer satisfaction is very important is keeping customers coming back.

When you can't make them happy

If your customer still is not happy, then it is time to call in reinforcements.  Your direct Supervisor should be called first.  That is what they are there for, to help deflect tension.  You may be asked to step away from the situation, do so quickly.  This is not a slight against you.  Your Supervisor will come to you once the situation is handled to ask your side of the story.

Your Supervisor should direct the customer away from any possible fray.  This will do two things, 1.  Help calm the irate customer  2. Let you get calmed down as well and get back to work.  During this time DO NOT talk about the customer to any other customers.  This could possibly get back to the offended one, which will cost you your job. 

My Philosophy

As a cashier I tried to keep my customers happy. To me being a Cashier was one of the most important jobs in retail. Why is this? Because as a cashier, you are the customers last person they see and have to deal with. You can make or break their shopping experience. If they have a good ‘check out’ experience they are more likely to return to the place of business.

Being a good cashier is more than just being fast and getting the customer through the line. You can gauge your customer just a little by their attitude as they come in your line. If they seem to be in a hurry, smile pleasantly and get them rung up, they don’t not wish for any banter, unless you can do both at the same time. There are some who want to dawdle all day at the register, do not rush these people. They have waited in line for your time, give them a little bit of it.

Some people are just lonely and want to chat a bit.  If your line gets long, get them checked out rapidly and they will move along.  It doesn’t take anything out of your day to be pleasant to people.  Most customers understand your feet hurt and you want your break, but please don’t take out your frustrations on us.

Be a good customer!

For the people who are customers, be pleasant to your cashiers, joke with them a bit, make them smile.  It will make your day more pleasant knowing you made someone smile.  If you notice a customer behind you who seems to be getting frustrated, try joking with them.  It will make you wait in line a little more pleasant, as well as the frustrated customer.

If you have complaints, take them to customer service, your cashier is just that a cashier.  He or she does not have any control over the rest of the store.  They do not have control over how many cashiers are on duty, so complaining to them about how long you waited to check out is only going to make things worse.  Your frustrations will mount as will theirs and they will be more likely to make mistakes, making your time in the store a bit  longer.  More than likely the only time they see the rest of the store is when shopping or punching in and out.

The Golden Rule

The simplest thing to keep in mind?  The Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  and always remember Be Kind.  Keeping these things in mind will help in customer service and customer satisfaction


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    • profile image

      Bruce 5 years ago

      I was a customer service agent for an auto insurance company for a few years through college. It was a great gig, I only had a few times where I almost lost it.. Haha, but I attribute part of my self control to that job. I had to go to, and go through their customer service training program before I felt comfortable at the job. It was a good experience overall.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Oh yes it is!! I love that I am capable of doing that too!!

    • profile image

      kommitted1973 6 years ago

      Great Hub! I was fortunate. In my last customer service position, my sup was very supportive of his team members. It also helps to have excellent customer service training programs. Learning how to deal w/irrate customers is a much needed skill.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you! So glad you enjoyed.

    • C-Bless profile image

      C-Bless 6 years ago from Canada

      Very good hub and a great read. I took a customer services class yesterday and much of what you mentioned was covered. Thank you very much for sharing...

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Well it looks as though I missed a few comments to reply to.

      @ Freelance Web Developer - As a Cashier it is not your job to determine whether a customer is right or wrong. You are not allowed to get snippy with a customer, no matter what they say to you. If the customer comments nastily to you, your response SHOULD be AFTER you get your supervisor "Could you please take this customer, they are dissatisfied with my service". Nothing more nothing less. What you are doing is placating the customer, showing to your Supervisor that you are refusing to step to the level of getting snippy. Saying "Don't get personal with me" is VERY snippy, and not professional at all.

      @ Avesel - This is true as far as pay goes, personally I have seen how the higher ups deal with nasty customers, they do a fine job of it!! They actually have training for these types of situations. Also because they haven't been dealing with customers all day long, they are able to keep their head in a hot situation.

      @ jpcmc - After a while you learn to read people, and can determine what type of customer they are. This helps in any situation.

      Thanks for stopping by - So sorry it took me so long to get back with 2 of you! It didn't show up on my list as even being here.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Many erroneously believe that customer service is simply about smiling and getting orders right. Unfortunately it goes beyond that. Moreover, the impact of customer service goes beyond the employee and affects every person in the organization. How you treat your customers whether internal or external is a reflection of one's attitude and the corporate values.

      Sweetsusieg is right about the golden rule. It's an excellent foundation for great customer service. Thanks for the hub.

    • Avesel profile image

      Avesel 6 years ago

      Customer service duties often go to the lowest paid employees while "higher ups" are shielded from customer contact. This shouldn't be: dealing with customers should be a high status thing. Plus, if you shield some employees from customers, how can they understand them? Your product people need to understand customers just as well.

    • profile image

      Freelance Web Developer 7 years ago

      I disagree that 'The customer is always right' - if they're making personalized criticisms or insults you should get defend yourself - but mostly in a professional way. Something like 'don't get personal with me.'

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Even phone CS is the same. Customers just want someone to stick up for them. You trainer was absolutely correct!

      Thanks for stopping by and reading and commenting!

    • Tirzah Laughs profile image

      Tirzah Laughs 7 years ago from USA

      I've worked phone customer service and I've rarely had some one lose it on me. I'm glad I no longer work CS but I still thank the trainer who gave me the best advice on customers.

      'Even if the problem isn't your fault, take responsibility for it. Be genuinely sorry for what's happened (even if it wasn't your fault) and do your best to fix the situation.' Customers want someone on their side and not pass them on to someone else. But I worked phone CS.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Rochelle - Thanks! I try to treat people with the same respect I wish. The world would be a much nicer place if we all did that, wouldn't it?

      Someone once said "It takes all kinds"... We wouldn't get good laughs if all people were nice!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Absolutely! I agree with you whole heartedly. We do not need to take dis-respect from people, but in turn when they are upset for one reason or another we need to find out how to please them, or at least make some effort to do so.

      When we have done what we can, then we know we have done our job to the best of our abilities.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

      I enjoyed this very much. Many of us have been on both sides and I guess we've all been on one side or the other. It's how you treat other people that makes you the person you are.

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Borrowing from Lincoln I would say: “you can’t please all the people all the time”; it is just as simple and just as impossible.

      Being of service, does not mean being a servant. We all are in the service business, whether we know it and accept it or not.

      The president takes an oath to serve the country and its people and so is the Pope. Is a lawyer or a doctor doing anything else than providing a service? Of course not! They may have fancy business cards to advertise their services, but in the end it boils down to the same thing; without a costumer, there is NO business to attend to.

      Good costomer service is a must and not a favor, respect for the ones at work, trying to do their best is also a must.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      You would think that people would do a better job trying to hang on to that thread wouldn't you? In the small town I live in, jobs are few and far between because people do their best to hang on to those jobs. In a nearby town which in larger, the people are getting more and more rude by the day. It could be due to the stress of the recession but I don't think that is it.

      I really should write a Hub about the last 16 years on this side of the state... LOL

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      after reading misty's comment,I agree with bad customer service everywhere you go. I am shocked at how some companies stay in business with employees or even managers who have no concept of customer service.

      I thought during a recession customer service would be better due to companies trying to retain customers and employees competingto keep their jobs, but I've experienced worse customer service than ever before.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      @ izettl- It's amazing isn't it? Some folks just believe that serving them means 'servant'... I would have made a good business owner!! I try to read people for work issues or otherwise in my life. It helps me in all areas.

      @ Misty - Yeah that guy should have been sacked! I've fired people for less! Once I fired someone when I wasn't the boss. Now that's ballsy! LOL I like being happy and bubbly if people don't like it then they need to find some happy pills... hehehe

      Thank you both for stopping by and commenting!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      LOL, as someone who has worked on tills and in customer service at various levels, I know exactly where you are coming from. I even hubbed on the topic calling it something like 'Why the Customer is NOT always right'.

      My Sister had an incident locally where she was eating a lunch in a local hotel and had been given a flat, strange tasting beer. The bar attendant insisted there was nothing wrong with the beer, even though she asked him to try it for himself and suggested it might have been a recently changed barrel that had not been run through the pipes sufficiently. Eventually he gave her a new beer that was fine, but when she went to pay her bill he had charged her for BOTH beers. When she questioned this he got really nasty, even going so far as to tapping his temple with his index finger and announcing loudly that "you are mad you are". She complained to a more senior member of staff who knew her as a regular customer, and he made the barman in question apologise, (albeit not very convincingly and rather bluntly and in two words, "I'm sorry"). When she left the hotel she was in tears, and her friend returned to the hotel to complain to the manageress, apparently she gave the guy a warning and was very apologetic as she knew my sister too, but that was not the point, the guy should have been sacked for his terrible attitude.

      Excellent hub and a great example of why customers can be such total arse***es! God help me, I even had one customer ask me 'What the joke was' once simply because I was naturally a smiley and bubbly cashier at the time. It was made patently obvious he thought in some way me and other staff were probably making fun of him in some way because 'I' wasn't a miserable so'n'so. Crazy eh! You just can't win!!!!

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      AWESOME~ I was a waitress for 15 years. A lot of what you say is true. Some people walk in the door already mad. And gauging your customers was what we were taught in restaurant- "read the table". Overall, working in customer service helps you in all areas of life. People who start their own business are more likely to succeed if they've had years of customer service experience- no surprise there. Great hub.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      So true liljen23 - But sometimes we have to suck it up and take it. Just smile and keep your head, they will go home and realize what an idiot they were eventually...

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • liljen23 profile image

      liljen23 7 years ago from Shreveport,LA

      Great hub on this topic, I know a lot about customer service, but in my opinion "the customer is not always right".. LOL..

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      LOL - too funny! That's a good one, I'll save that for a day when I'm treated badly... Thanks!

    • Merlin Fraser profile image

      Merlin Fraser 7 years ago from Cotswold Hills

      Servers her right ! Good for the manager too....!

      My brother has a special greeting for people like her,

      he just smiles and says, "Why don't you go do a job you like !"

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Oh Absolutely I agree with you! If I were treated rudely as that I might feel the same. Actually I was once and the lady lost her job over it.

      A friend and I was in the check out buying just a few items, my daughter VERY young and in my arms, reached an pulled off a jar of pickles, they broke all over the floor. I was mortified. The cashier was extremely busy flirting with the bag boy and then had to call for a mop. Rather than just say 'we had and accident on aisle #13'.. she said "Some lady here at my register let her kid break a jar of pickles and it's stinking all over the place".

      I apologized repeatedly, but it seemed to have no effect, she continued to say about the same thing to passersby, customers, co-workers etc. She wouldn't ring me up until the mess was cleaned up. She made it sound as though I had my daughter do it on purpose. She refused to let someone go get me another jar of pickles. I offered to pay for the broken one and of course the new one.

      I was almost it tears as I left the store, everyone within hearing distance knew that my daughter broke a jar of pickles!! It was a rather large grocery store, so when I got home I called and spoke to the store manager. He reviewed the tape of my visit, she was fired.

      There was no excuse for her to behave so badly, if she'd have been a young girl, I might have understood, at the time, she was about 10 years older than I.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Merlin Fraser profile image

      Merlin Fraser 7 years ago from Cotswold Hills

      You have probably guessed this but I think I'd be pretty lousy in Customer Service... In my capacity of never suffering fools I doubt I could handle any job where the general public enmasse might be involved.

      Of course, there is the other side of the coin where you get some stores that pay peanuts and only have monkeys working for them.

      One small incident in question, packets of cookies that are easily broken when smashed down after check out or slung down the shute at you.

      The checkout lady was in a foul mood, the expression on her face said it all, Trouble at home or work who knows....

      I don't like broken cookies so I chose the packets carefully. All my good work came to naught at the checkout. I said nothing as she smashed and crashed her way through my shopping but the smashed cookies I kept to one side.

      When it came time to pay the bill, I asked polietly to have new packets supplied to replace the ones she had smashed.

      She refused so I said fetch a supervisor, one came and I explained the problem and the attitude. "They look fine to me!" I was told.

      OK but I still expect you to exchange them, then came the excuse "It's not our policy...."

      "Fine !" Says I..."Have fun putting this lot back on the shelf...."

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Is it isn't it? Hard to find that is, some folks just don't care. I think if falls back to entitlement... Ya know one of these days I'm gonna have to write a Hub on that! People of today seem to feel they don't have to be nice until someone is nice to them first.

      I just don't get it, where did common courtesy go?

      Thanks for stopping by and giving my ego a bit of a boost!

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 7 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      It is safe to say the days of caring interaction between customer and employees is an old school tradition that is rare to find. Thank you for being one of those precious gems that sparkle.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      I had to chuckle on that sorry! I guess I'm glad mine didn't throw stuff at me! I'd have probably had a concussion. Wow, some people just don't make good customers either do they?

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Glad you enjoyed it!

    • jdomingo profile image

      jdomingo 7 years ago from Texas

      Hey good hub and it is true what they say you always remember that ONE irate customer. I'll never forget the time I was working for Taco Bell/KFC and it was 4 minutes after closing and I didn't have a full 12pc meal so she ordered tacos instead I don't know what the hell happened but she became extremely irate. All I know is that I had a shirt full of tacos and soda and the police had to escort her of the premise!!!

      In any case good stuff!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for reading and commenting, I will have to check out your Hub. Being a 'service' employee can be difficult, but if you like people can be very rewarding!

    • sjk6101983 profile image

      sjk6101983 7 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      I really enjoyed your hub. I'm in the same line of work as you are but I did as a seasonal employee. If you read this hub , you'll get what I mean.