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Didi’s Manner & Etiquette: Customer Relationships

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


People looking to up their customer care skills for a summer hire or second job are asking questions about customer etiquette to Didi Lorillard at Didi's Manners.

Q,  My name is Douglas and I’m writing to ask you about customer care. I live in Chicago and have learned a great deal from your etiquette website. Guess what? I am about to start a fabulous adventure; I will be moonlighting at a new Whole Foods just around the corner from my apartment! I will definitely need to put into practice many things I have learned from you. I just finished two weeks (really!) of training, and am looking forward to serving/educating customers about beer, cheese, coffee, etc., and backing up my team members as best as possible. Any tips or advice you can share would definitely be welcome. Thank you!  -Douglas, Chicago, IL

A.  The customer is always right. Even if you don't agree, respect their opinion.

There is a famous story about the wildly successful America merchant John Wanamaker, who was a pioneer in marketing. A salesman at Wanamaker's department store accused a loyal customer of trying to steal a small item that she had just bought elsewhere at a lower price. The lady had actually come into the store to buy something far more significant, but when this small item caught her eye, she asked the cost. After being questioned about the item in her possession, the woman mentioned she had come in with the intention of purchasing a baby grand piano. She produced the sales slip for the small item that proved her story and abruptly left the store. The following afternoon, a baby grand piano was delivered to her house as a token of apology from Mr. Wanamaker.

The point here is that you buy loyalty with respect. Wanamaker is quoted as having often said,  "When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king."

Be as helpful to costumers as you can, keep in mind that they, too, lead busy lives and are probably trying to get out of the store with as little fuss as possible, possibly with your assistance.

  • For instance, when asked to check whether there is any broccolini left, offer to go back into the produce room to restock the broccolini.
  • When a mother with small children in tow is struggling to get out the door with a loaded shopping cart, help her to her car by pushing the cart and loading the groceries into the trunk while she secures her kids into their carseats.
  • If a shopper is trying to twist the long straggly tops off a bunched up handful of carrots offer to cut them off for her.
  • When a customer insists that the price labelled on the shelf is lower than it was when rung up, send a coworker to check the shelf and give her the correct price.
  • Offer to use your savings card when the shopper has left hers in another handbag.
  • When you see a shorter shopper on tip toes trying to reach a top shelf item, get the item down for him or her.
  • When asked where are the eggs? don't just say aisle ten. Lead the shopper to the eggs.
  • Don't go into work if you are visibly sick, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose because nobody wants you touching their groceries with germ-laden hands.
  • Should the shopper's card be declined, don't announce it to the world. Under your breath ask the shopper if he or she has another card.
  • Don't refuse a return. Refund the money or give the person a fresh item.

Over time you will pick up helpful hints to assist costumers better by being able to answer questions. Continue to be curious. Look up the answers you don't know. Some examples:

How do I tell if this mellon is ripe? A ripe mellon with be slightly softer where the stem was removed    and that soft spot will exude a mellow whiff of melon scent.    

  • What is the difference between a product that is "natural" and one that is "organic?" Google the defini-tions; along with other terms such as "free range," "grass fed," "organic superfood," "cold milled organic," "verified NonGMO," "GF for gluten free," "V for vegan," "sustainably pole & line caught." 
  • Why are organic coffee beans better? Non-organic coffee beans have been cultivated with pesticides for decades.    
  • Working at Whole Foods you'll need to know where the following popular products are located and what the heck they are: quinoa, chia, flaxseed, coconut oil, soy, almond and coconut milk, coconut flakes, tofu, chana masala, daiya, etc.
  • What is an artisan cheese and a handcrafted beer?  


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at Didi'sManners.


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