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The Spirit of Service
By Mark Hunter

At one time or another, we have all encountered an employee who would clearly rather be anywhere than at the store serving customers. It's unfortunate because there are few professions where a person has a chance to make a bigger impression on someone than in retail.

Every day, a retail salesperson encounters customers from a wide variety of backgrounds with an equally wide variety of expectations and needs. The interaction that takes place says a lot about the individual clerk as well as the retail store. Even if the store has a good reputation, the experience will be lost if the salesperson does not handle the customer with a spirit of service. On the other hand, an employee with a spirit of service can overcome a problematic retail store. In the end, it's the employee, not the store that makes the encounter a memorable one.

It is easy to have stellar customer service when everything is going great, but that same attitude can suddenly disappear when things are not going well. Unfortunately, in retail, things often go wrong, especially when the store is busy. Every salesperson needs to remember that no matter how bad things are going for them, the customer could care less, they merely want to be served. In other words, no customer wakes up in the morning wondering if the sales person they'll see later in the day is going to have a good day. Instead, they wake up with a list of activities they want to complete. Nowhere on the list does it say anything about dealing with less than perfect store employees. At the same time, employees wake up and realize that they are going to be dealing with a wide range of customers, while thinking about all of the bad things that might possibly occur. It's this collision of negative feelings on the mind of the employee and the expectations of the customer that can create a spirit of service that is anything but positive.

Every retail employee must realize how much their attitude will add to or take away from the customer's total experience. More importantly, their attitude can determine how the customer chooses to tell others about their shopping event. When you consider that every customer talks to an average of 30 other people every 48 hours, their impression can impact many people in just a couple of days. If those same 30 people talk to another 30 people themselves, more than 900 people could wind up hearing about the customer's positive or negative experience. Similarly, if a retail store has 20 salespeople and each assists 25 people in a given day, it means that their spirit of service could possibly be shared with 15,000 people in a matter of two days. If these 15,000 then share it with only 5 others, 75,000 people have now heard about the attitudes of the employees! No wonder so many retailers go out of business because of bad customer service. On the other hand, isn't it amazing how quickly a salesperson with a true spirit of service can build a business?

A spirit of service is nothing more than an attitude that communicates the desire to make a difference in the life of each customer the salesperson meets. It is reflected in how the employee feels on the inside and is evident in the enthusiasm they share with every customer.

The challenge in developing a genuine spirit of service among employees is to determine whether a customer, at the end of the day, would reflect on his or her experience in their store in a positive or negative light. What kind of impact did the employee make on them? Remember, it is the employee, not the store or the merchandise, which determines the outcome.

Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter", is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability. For more information or to receive a free weekly sales tip via email, contact "The Sales Hunter" at


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