CARLIE KOLLATH: Dear employees, please smile at your customers

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

First impressions are more important than ever for businesses. Consumers like me are rethinking how we spend money. We don’t buy a new outfit every weekend. And, we have cut back on dining out every night of the week.
But we still shop and eat out.
And when we do, we want businesses to want our business. We want them to be excited that we have chosen to spend money with them instead of someone else.
Yet, I’ve found a lack of enthusiasm in Tupelo lately in the retail and restaurant sector. The main breakdown has been how I am greeted when I enter the business.
I’ve been ignored as employees text on their cell phones. I’ve been talked down to for asking about something I saw on the company’s website that I can’t find in the store.
But more often, I’ve encountered employees who don’t seem to care that I am there.
This has happened in locally owned businesses and in chain businesses.
It’s frustrating because I’m trying to do a good thing for our economy – shop in Tupelo.
It’s easy to shop online and often I can find comparable or better prices to what is offered locally. Many sites offer free shipping, so I don’t even have to pay for the convenience of not changing out of my pajamas to shop.
But I value stores and restaurants in Tupelo. I enjoy walking around and doing a little retail therapy. I like to try on clothes before I buy them.
And I value the owners’ participation in our community.
The breakdown between the passion of the owners and the apathy of the employees is what drives me crazy. I want these businesses to survive, so I shop and eat with them, but some of the employees don’t seem to understand that their behavior can make or break a business.
However, some employees do. I have had tremendous customer service from individual employees and I make a point to tell the manager or the owner about my experience. The employee has drunk the Kool-Aid and it makes a difference.
I understand it’s hard to be a peppy, enthusiastic person 24 hours a day, but in the service industry, it’s part of the job. In college, I worked at Bath & Body Works. We would do free hand massages as we showed customers how a lotion or salt scrub worked. And we did it with smiles, even if our feet hurt. People came in to indulge themselves and they expected happy faces to help them.
But now, employees are being asked to handle more responsibilities as businesses seek to do more with less. Instead of several employees taking care of customers in a department, one employee is tasked with answering the phone, running the register, opening dressing rooms and putting away items. It makes for a stressed-out employee. And that same stressed-out employee is often the first face customers see when they enter a store.
There aren’t easy solutions, but as an employee, I found that a “thank you” and a little appreciation from your boss can go a long way. I also found it helpful when my manager showed me how my efforts impacted the bottom line and thus my future with the company.
As a customer, I just ask employees to remember I have other options of where to spend my money. I don’t say that to lord it over your head, but to remind you that if you don’t want my money, I can go somewhere else. Please put your phone in your pocket, smile at me and pretend for a few minutes you are happy I’m doing business with you.
And to the employees who already are doing a terrific job, thank you. I notice and I appreciate you.
Carlie Kollath is a business reporter at the Daily Journal. Contact her at carlie.kollath@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1598.