Monday, 31 January 2011

Service with a Smile

Tomorrow I have an informal “meet and greet” interview at a shop in Covent Garden. Facing possible redundancy in the coming months from my job in social care, I figured it was time to look elsewhere for potential employment. As someone who dreams of running their own business one day, I figured a bit of paid work experience as a trainee manager might be the way to go. Not being a fan of big corporations, I checked out the website of one of my favourite brands who, in my mind, go against the grain, and sent off my CV.
Offering fresh, funky products in a friendly environment, they put most other retailers to shame. In fact, I am surprised Mary Portas hasn’t showcased them in her Secret Shopper series. One of the things I like about it is its customer service. They pitch it just right, greeting you a “hi” and “hello” and offering to tell you about their products without being pushy or stalking you around the shop whilst you browse.
In London especially, this is a rarity. Most shop assistants do well to break into a smile, let alone offer you any help. Then there are those that are just plain rude. In fact it was only Friday that I was in what I would consider a middle class supermarket attempting to buy fish. I stood at the counter with Him Indoors whilst the assistant talked and gassed to her friend over at the butchers. After several minutes of attempting to make eye contact with her I trotted over and asked if she was serving fish. She gave me a stony look.
“I’m just washing my hands. Okay?” She retorted, and took her time completing her task too. Him Indoors and I looked at each other, stunned. We debated complaining, but didn’t. I watched Mary Portas later that day, and kicked myself for putting up with such sub standard service.
Unfortunately, service can go the other way too, and become cloying and cringe-worthy to the point where I want to run away and be left alone. Then there is the faux pas of calling me “Madame”. I mean, really? If I was middle aged, I wouldn’t mind, but at the sensitive age of 31, I consider it quite inappropriate and, quite honestly, depressing. I am a Miss or a Mademoiselle if you insist on speaking French, thank you.
There is a sandwich shop just around the corner from my office that gets it just right. Even during a busy lunch hour they always offer a smile, joke about the price, and call me “Senorita.” I leave with a smile on my face and feeling much relief that I haven’t reached the “Senora” stage yet. Much more acceptable, in my eyes.
So, when I pop along to my appointment tomorrow evening, I shall be keeping my Golden Rules in mind. At the end of the day, I might not be selling their products just yet, but I need to market myself just right to get my foot in the door. So, I will be wearing my biggest smile, maintaining eye contact and calling people by their names as much as I can remember. I if I can’t? Well, I won’t be calling them Ma’am, that’s for sure. Maybe I should introduce London’s shoppers to “duck” or “shug” instead…

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