Last week, Bloomingdales announced they are closing their store at Perimeter Mall in Atlanta. This is too bad, but not a surprise. So persistently and consistently poor was the service in this store as to move me to write a piece about them in my newsletter Pragmatic Points. 

The management of this store was the problem. They tolerated some very bad behavior on the part of some of the staff. Remarkably, a few outstanding people were unfailingly helpful but they were so in the minority that the overall experience couldn’t be shifted even by their sincerity and enthusiasm.

A degree in physics is not required to understand what constitutes good service nor what happens in its absence. The issue here was the utter failure of management to model appropriate behavior. I saw it with my own eyes – shockingly poor behavior that not only didn’t make me happy but signaled to the employees in attendance that inattention to customers was acceptable.

What should have happened instead?

1. Managers would walk the floor of the store not to walk the floor but to observe, coach and encourage the behaviors needed for success.

2. Weed out employees who … and I’m not making any of this up….

Ignored customers

Spent time with customers telling them about other customer’s possessions

Spoke to customers while facing away from them

Yelled at customers from across the room

Told customers what they should do so an employee would get credit for the sale

3. Reward and make role models of those who:

Attend to customers in a thoughtful and professional manner

Make things easier, not more difficult

This is how to create a climate of performance, which in turn leads to a more satisfying workplace and positive interactions with customers. The few talented and enthusiastic people I encountered in this store will find new jobs and their employers will be lucky to have them. The others were let down my management that didn’t require more of them.

This isn’t rocket science. It is common sense combined with an ethic of performance and the nerve to apply both.

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