Evie McQuhae, our Marketing & Journalism gap-year student, has been out and about with MGI’s research team to see if customer service givers in retail are demonstrating the power of a positive mindset and providing positive first responses to their customers. Having gathered the evidence and aligned it with what she has learned so far from MGI’s Mindset, Actions and Language Toolkit, Evie has written an insightful piece on her experience that day and how easily it could be improved.
The power of a positive first response in customer service
Believe it or not, attitude is contagious. A positive attitude uplifts those around you, whilst a negative one can drain the energy of whom ever you encounter. And so, incorporating this correctly into the working world is crucial for the successful performance of your company. Research recently undertaken by MGI in local shops demonstrates the importance of a positive response, especially when giving disappointing news to customers.
Having a good mindset
Before even beginning your response to a customer it is important you self-analyse to make sure you’re putting your best professional foot forward. Being in a positive frame of mind and having an optimal mindset allows for a positive attitude to work and shape your response. If your attitude and mindset is positive within your response to your colleague or customer, their reply should be consistent with your response due to the contagious factor of attitude, therefore creating a work environment where everyone can thrive.
What are your first words?
Starting every interaction with a positive will encourage people to listen, engage and be more open minded. MGI’s recent research clearly shows the impact the opposite, negative response can trigger in the customer. Having approached local shops and asking for products which were missing from the shelf, or where we could not see them in store, we were keen to experience how the customer service team members took action, looked for alternatives or gave disappointing news to their customers and, in particular, their immediate response.
Some prime examples
We asked a well-known gift shop whether they had any special educational magnetic calendars with days of the week, months and weather tracking. An employee answered with the blunt, short, and negative declarative “No, we don’t”. Having stated that, they then stood there looking rather embarrassed and giggling. No suggestions, solutions or other options were offered. Beginning their answer with a negative ‘no’ shuts the customer down straight away, leaving them deflated, unengaged and darting for the door. Therefore, no benefit can be gained by either party with other helpful suggestions such as alternative items or even helpful hints as to where else the customer might try. Also, a lack of positive professionalism within the first response will possibly leave the customer with a negative outlook on the overall shop meaning they are less likely to visit again.
However, in another children’s stationary store we asked for the same Calendar. We were given the reply “No we don’t have anything like that. I don’t think you’ll get it in any shops here.” The employee then went on to suggest other online shops to try, explaining that she too had been looking for something similar. This employee was much chattier and more empathetic creating a personal feel granting a trustworthy and helpful relationship with the customer. Although starting with a negative ‘no’, empathy and additional solutions were given which was helpful. Embedding the ‘no’ with a positive in front and behind would be a much more effective response, as the first and last communication is positive.
Later on, at a well-known chocolate shop, we asked a sales assistant whether they had any vegan white chocolate. Yet again the reply was a blunt and definitive “No”, shutting down the customer and finishing the conversation leading to no sale. Having prompted a little the sales assistant later admitted that “We do have a vegan milk chocolate made with nut milk that’s really lovely.” If they had not been prompted the employee would not have said this, demonstrating a missed opportunity to delight the customer with a viable and helpful alternative, that could have led to numerous sales further down the line while spreading awareness of a niche product.
Making the difference
Having an optimal mindset where solution-focus, optimism and taking responsibility for outcomes is key will make all the difference to the service you are able and keen to give, every time. The outcome of our retail research stressed just how few customer service givers know how to focus on alternatives first, and if they need to give uncomfortable or disappointing news are ill-equipped to do so in an effective or beneficial way for their company, leading to poor service, potential damage to their reputation and missed opportunities to really engage and empathise with the customer. Building strong relationships and reputations through everything we think, feel, say and do is a critical part of every business in thriving, growing, and overcoming obstacles.