You might want to practice that gift of conversation

It may be fair to say that interpersonal communications skills are the very foundation of excellent customer service.  If you or your employees don’t have them, chances are your customer service is going to suffer for it.

I was recently hell-bent on finding the perfect shoes after a summer of suffering some affliction on the ball of one foot. I decided to try a nearby independent shoe store—not one of the Big Boxes or big chain department stores—so that I could get personal, knowledgeable attention regarding the best shoe for the silly foot problem.  Prices there were known to be much higher than I usually paid but, like I said, I was hell-bent.

Somehow, I managed to trip into the store, right over their doorstop, and nearly smacked into the woman whom I knew to be the owner, and another young woman I assumed to be her assistant. I made a joke.  “Hi, I thought I’d just drop in,” I said.

Their faces remained frozen in place and the owner gave a noncommittal, “Mmmm,” looking at me as if I carried a badger on my shoulder.  Or, maybe she thought I was drunk.

As I tried to recover my dignity, I thought I’d attempt further chit-chat.  “Gee, I was sorry to see your outlet store (a few towns away) has closed. I went there all the time.”

I got another, “Mmmm,” from the owner and nothing from the young sales woman.

Okay, I’ll just browse, I thought. And there, shining like a Holy Grail, was the perfect pair of shoes, under a sign that said, “All sandals 40 percent off.”  These shoes did not look like sandals to me, so I asked the young clerk, just to make sure I’d get the discount.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Like the sign says: all sandals.”

Uh, huh.

Well, I tried the things on and, sadly, they were a shade too tight.

“Gee,” I said to the clerk. “I’m assuming, with the sale, you probably don’t have the half size up?”

“No.”

Okay then. I didn’t bother looking at anything else in the store, which also carried bags, gifts, candy, jackets, housewares, jewelry, lots of fun stuff.

The store felt decidedly UN-FUN with these two clerks whose cats apparently had their tongues. Now, maybe their actual cat had just died, I don’t know, but if they weren’t going to be bothered with the simple act of speech, I wasn’t going to be bothered with the simple act of buying something from them.

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