7 Retail Customer Service Experience Mistakes and What They Cost You
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7 Retail Customer Service Experience Mistakes and What They Cost You

7 Retail Customer Service Experience Mistakes and What They Cost You

As a motivational speaker, I travel a lot and encounter customer service mistakes all the time. A few weeks ago, I was waiting in line for an iced tea at a coffeehouse. Just as I was about to give my order, the cashier said, “Excuse me,” then looked at someone standing behind me and said, “Fred, do you want the usual?”

A guy three people behind me said, “Yes,” and the cashier nodded, then turned back to me.

I’m sure in her mind she thought she was giving me great customer service; she had both acknowledged me and helped her regular customer.

What she didn’t realize was that she made the common mistake of giving a regular customer preferential treatment over a new customer. That’s the opposite of what you want a customer experience to be, and is one of the reasons customers don’t return.

Treating regulars better than first-timers is an expensive customer service mistake.

What did it cost that business? In my case, I would never return, and I’m pretty sure those two people behind me wouldn’t feel much like returning either.

When you don’t treat new customers just as well – if not better! – than your regulars, you develop a core group of customers that doesn’t grow. And it leaves your business more exposed to your loyal customers’ behaviors if they move away or a competitor enters the market.

Let me help you and your crew better understand the customer experience. Here are 6 more customer service mistakes retailers make that lose them money.

1. Leaving a customer to answer the phone

It takes a lot of time and effort to greet a stranger in a way that lets them open up to you and allows you to become a trusted advisor. Leaving them after you have established this trust breaks that bond.

What does it cost you? The higher your average ticket, the more this costs you because customers revert back to thinking they have to go it alone.

Then you have to start over to reignite their feeling of trust in you. If you don’t return quickly (or at all), you either lose the add-on or the sale entirely.

2. Asking for a commitment before providing inspiration

Old-school sales training encourages salespeople to tie down potential customers early so as not to waste the salesperson’s time. While most retailers don’t even have retail sales training anymore, many allow their employees to ask early in the sale: “Do you have a budget?” or “Are you prepared to buy it today?” This puts customers immediately on the defensive.

What does it cost you? While many customers will tell you their budget, no one comes in and says the sky’s the limit! Limiting their choices means you are making them settle.

When they can’t find something in their price range, they feel judged by the employee and often will leave empty-handed.

3. Selling only what the customer asks for

Most customers nowadays research online before coming in your door. When they do come in and ask for a very particular product, poorly trained employees will simply take them to it or tell them they don’t have it.

What does it cost you? The trouble is, your shopper will never discover another option you have that will do the same, or a premium model that will work even better.

The shopper is never given the chance to compare and contrast which means your store’s success is solely dependent on what customers ask for, not what you carry... leaving a lot of money on the table.

4. Asking “Anything else?”

This is a mistake rampant in both retailers and restaurateurs. It pretty much says to customers, “You’re finished.”

What does it cost you? Suggestive selling is where the profit is. The first item pays for your overhead and the second item is what the employee adds that the customer either needs or didn’t know they needed.

5. Allowing long wait lines at the cash register

Understaffing the cashiers, especially on busy weekends, makes customers question their purchases and ask themselves: Is it worth it to stand in line? Can I just order online? Do I really need this? Is there somewhere else quicker?

What does it cost you? Online retailers track abandoned carts religiously. Brick-and-mortar stores rarely notice. You have to staff for the rush, not the schedule.

Look around your retail store for how many items are placed in bizarre locations. Those items were most likely abandoned by frustrated shoppers.

6. Adding services at the cost of coverage

Buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) requires dedicated staff, space, and resources. Ship-from-store requires more boxes and advanced logistics to not flood the store with orders. Merchandising and planning must be modified as traditional KPIs will not be applicable as the whole store becomes a fulfillment warehouse.

These additional omnichannel services do not increase revenue as much as they increase costs. Those unbudgeted expenses must be made up somewhere, and is typically seen as a reduction of staff on the sales floor.

What does it cost you? Less staff on the floor means less customer service. The more staff are charged with tasks to pack orders, the more the entire focus of your business goes from the customers in front of you to the ones you can’t see.

Dressing rooms filled with clothes, messy displays, and long wait times for service make customers pull out their smartphones in your store and shop a competitor.


Customer service mistakes are your biggest expense.

In an age when we are told it is “all about the customer,” it is shocking to me how many decisions are made that degrade the customer service experience at brick-and-mortar stores.

Delivering an exceptional experience requires the focus to stay squarely on the person who drove in the rain, snow, traffic, or heat past your competitors to find a parking place and walk in through your door.

Miss that commitment and the customers you have now – or any new ones you might have acquired – either will stay home and order online or shop from a competitor. Anyone but you.

Customer service experience management has many parts. Look for those on this list you are guilty of – and fix them before it is too late.

See also: Do You Provide an Engaging Customer Service Experience? Take This Quiz

Bob Phibbs, “The Retail Doctor,” is a 30-plus-year retail expert with a proven track record to help brands lift sales, turn their retail staff into real salespeople, and get more out of their store traffic with innovative retail marketing tactics. Contact him at 562-260-2266, or visit his website.

Published: April 27th, 2022

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