Treat them well, and they’ll be back

October 26, 2010

Since Philippa Ballantine’s Geist came out today, I trundled off to the bookstore early this morning. I’d done my research beforehand, and knew this particular store had copies in stock. When I got to the Fantasy section, however, I found nothing between Baker and Balmor. Wondering if it was misplaced, I checked the rest of the Fantasy authors with B names. Then I looked in Science Fiction. Finally, with fading hope, I looked at the B authors in General Fiction.


A few store clerks wandered around, most with arms full of books and discussing plans for Halloween. Finally, one man saw me standing with furrowed brow in front of the information kiosk and asked if he could help. I was in the middle of explaining when a woman interrupted, barking, “I need help at Special Orders!”

I was rattled,  but the clerk’s composure never slipped. “I’ll be there as soon as I’m able.” He confirmed that Geist had in fact been delivered, quietly sent another clerk off to deal with the woman at Special Orders, and asked if I didn’t mind waiting while he checked the backroom to see if the Geist copies were still there .

A few minutes later, he was back, book in hand, with more apologies for the fact that it wasn’t on the shelves. Then he thanked me for my patience and wished me a good day.

Let’s analyze this clerk’s behaviour more closely.

  1. He engaged with a customer  who  needed assistance (i.e. me) pretty much as soon as he saw me with a look of consternation.
  2. Another, annoying customer was dealt with politely and quickly. This in particular really impressed me- he was already committed to helping me, but he made sure she got the assistance she needed as well, despite how rude she was.
  3. Instead of telling me Geist simply wasn’t stocked yet, he went out of his way to find me a copy. And he asked if I minded waiting while he did so.
  4. There certainly a sense of responsibility on his part: I don’t know if stocking the shelves is his job, and I was there pretty early in the morning, but the fact that he took accountability for it was awesome.
  5. Similarly, he ended the experience well. I didn’t mind waiting, but it was nice of him to acknowledge it.

End result? I felt looked after and valued, I felt that the staff was competent, and I left with my book. All good things. Notice how simple his individual actions were… but in customer service, it’s the little things that matter.

Treat them well, and your customers will be back. I know I will be.




  1. You have restored my faith in humanity!

    Actually, we had a similar experience the other day. In fact, it reminded me of the “Macy’s” Santa in Miracle on 34th Street.

    We went in to Verizon to talk about our cell phone situation and the clerk pulled up our account, said we were making VZ rich on our current plan, and proceeded to recommend a plan that would NOT EARN her a commission but would save us up to $400 a year!!!

    Recognizing that we were technologically inept, she transferred our contacts for us, blocked in-coming texts for us, and generally went above and beyond the call of duty to make us leave HAPPY!

    And the store was CROWDED . . . so she could have ditched us for a commission easily enough.

    Yay for the return of customer satisfaction ~ one plus of this long, long recession.

  2. And well they should behave in such a fashion. Bookstores, if you listen to the latest buzz, are all doomed and the only thing that will keep the survivors in business is excellent service. Those of us who refuse to cave to the e-reader revolution will always be loyal to those we trust to supply our needs!

  3. As Nancy and I found, customer service makes a huge difference… so I guess I don’t really understand why it can be so hard to find. I mean, this one experience was so remarkable, I wrote a blog post about it!

    I do understand what you’re saying about needing to keep customers… but again, it’s unfortunate that it’s only the companies on the brink that feel the need to do that. I have had plenty of terrible experiences in clothing stores that seem to be in no danger of being in the red anytime soon…

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