Though I’ve worked the last five years for a top PC manufacturer, I also have a ton of retail experience. I have something on the order of a decade and then some. Retail is hard. You have to be nice to people that sometimes treat you like dirt. While others expect you to wait on them hand and foot while 30 other customers around them also need your assistance. While others play dumb, every time they come in, just so they don’t have to do the simplest of things themselves.
You have to smile even when you’re not all that happy. You’re on your feet for hours and hours at a time. You have to hear the same questions from your customers over and over and over. You do the same tasks, over and over and over. You have to be nice to bigots and friendly people alike. You have to put up with borderline abuse at times and all in the name of a sale.
Occasionally you have to deal with coworkers that hide in the back and sometimes are quite rude to their customers, they don’t follow through, they don’t care about their customers, or only work when the boss is looking or won’t take ownership of a situation. In fact, most people who work retail don’t ‘get’ retail at all. It’s a very honorable profession, just like any other out there.
If all that were true, why would I ever, in a million years, consider going back into retail again? One and only reason; to sell Macs, the RIGHT way.
Have you seen the pictures of the latest Apple Store opening? Check these out from the opening in New Jersey over at MacCentral. Be sure to take special note of the employee’s greeting the customers. Then come right back here.
Over the 12 + years of my retail experience, I’ve developed my skills for working retail and I’m damned good at it. I even know how to handle the hard to handle customers and even how to make them your loyalist customers.
How do I know I’m good at it? Beyond the “too many to count” customer service awards (from both management and from my coworkers) to the multiple certificates of “outstanding performance,” Beyond the fact that I got hired by an IT company based solely on their experience of my customer service skills, not my tech skills. Beyond all that I’ve got one more ace up my sleeve, actually three aces. I’ve had three customers in two completely different industries literally say, “You’re the Nordstrom’s of _______.” fill in the name of the industry. And that’s my goal when I work retail, to provide the kind of service that makes my customers rave about my establishment and me.
When I first started getting a real education in retail I worked in the lighting industry. Selling lights for new homes in a showroom. The contractors would send their customers in to our stores and we’d help them select the lights for their new home. We even designed the lighting layouts for our customers if they came to us early enough. And of course, we sold TONS of retail. We were one well-oiled machine.
How do I know that? More than one contractor confessed to our outside sales staff that if they were down, out of sorts, or just having a bad day that they’d make up a reason to come into our store to Ôpick up some light bulbs’ even if they didn’t really needs them. Everybody knew our contractors, they always got a big hello and a smile and we’d fix them up right, treat ’em right and they’d leave with a big grin on their faces. “We made their day.”
Unfortunately, customer service is a dying art.
I went to Hollywood Video the other day. Oh my gawd, what awful service. There were at least four teens working there. The place wasn’t even that busy but the store wasn’t empty either. By the time I was second in line, every customer in the store was in line to check out behind me. Guess how many of those teens were working the cash register? ONE! That’s it, one. The rest, were hiding behind the other counter, their backs turned on their customers and were completely ignoring the line that stretched nearly to the back wall!
Can you believe that? Of course you can, you’ve been there before.
It reminded me of when I was working my way through school on the evening shift at Kinko’s. One night and we were swamped, absolutely jammed. I had five co-workers behind me in the production area and not a single one of them would look up and help customers. I couldn’t believe that these people, who were getting paid to help the customers, wouldn’t even look their way.
One of the reasons that I’ve garnered all of my customer service awards is that I would actually interact with the customers, listen to them and find them solutions. Unlike three of the teens at Hollywood Video mentioned above, or some of the folks that worked with me at Kinko’s way back when. Every person gets a hello, eye contact and a smile. Every one of ’em.
By nature, I’m actually an extremely shy person. If I can get away with staying quiet, I will. When you work in retail, you don’t get that luxury. What happens for me in retail is that I go to the opposite end of the scale, I get out there. Which means, I get interactive (but not obnoxious). It’s a little scary at first but once you get your sea legs under you, it’s actually not that hard. Honestly, it’s a little like being on stage. Why not have fun at it?
When I worked in Lighting, despite the fact that our company was growing by leaps and bounds (over 35% annually) we still made it fun. Our manager was the best, she expected us to work hard, take care of the customers but she, along with the whole team, made it FUN! When you work with a crew that’s truly committed to taking care of the customer, every part of the job gets so much easier.
Look at those pictures of the folks in the black shirts of the Apple Store. They “make it fun” for themselves and for all their customers. Now that’s what I call a perfect job! Sharing my Macintosh and Unix experience, sharing innovative solutions and selling the best damn Computers and Operating Sytem on the face of the earth, in a joyous and committed atmosphere. That’s why I want to work at an Apple Retail Store!