When did courtesy stop being common? When did customers start being invisible?

A while back, I had an experience of being totally ignored in a store that left me shaking my head (it wasn’t the first or last of these, sad to say).

I went to a local phone store to find out about upgrading my cell phone. There were two young male associates, each talking with a customer. So I wandered around for a few minutes, looking at each a couple of times.

No. I did NOT expect either one to drop his current customer and immediately rush over to me, but I did expect one or both to make eye contact and let me know he saw me.

It didn’t happen, so I left. Neither associate so much as lifted his head. I headed over to the other phone store in the mall and got immediate help. While all their associates were busy, too, a couple did take the time to smile and let me know they’d be with me in a minute or two.

The first phone store will never see me again, even though the manager did write an apologetic response to my email. He said they should have at least welcomed me (duh), and he’ll talk with them again. I have to wonder what kind of training those young men have had (the word “again” stands out).

Companies everywhere are crying out for more business, more customers, more money — so how can they allow this type of culture to exist in their stores?

With online sites like Yelp allowing anyone to post a review, why are so many companies not taking the time to make their customer experience the best it can be? 

If you’re a store owner or manager, or if you’re in charge of training sales personnel:

  1. What kind of experience do you want your customers to have? 
  2. Are there are clear and proper guidelines in place for all new hires, and continuous training for all associates?
  3. Do you hire for specific traits / personalities, which are inborn, and then teach skill? 
  4. Do all associates realize that everyone, even those not in direct sales … is still in sales? Clients or customers who feel welcomed will likely return. Clients or customers who feel invisible will likely go to your competitor for what they need.
  5. Be proactive. Find out how others experience your store / branch. Maybe try something different, like scheduling a mystery shop there. Maybe go yourself, if you’re not well known to the associates. There’s nothing like first-hand experience to see if everything and everyone measures up to the level you need!

I return again and again to the thought that Maya Angelou so eloquently expressed: 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.


  • Susan Rooks

    The Grammar Goddess | Editor / Copy Editor | Corporate Educator | Blogger | Cruciverbalist | Happy Woman

    Grammar Goddess Communication

    I help authors of anything business-related shine by finding and correcting their typos before they publish. My clients, who are bloggers, best-selling authors, web content creators, ghostwriters, even professional résumé writers, write nonfiction books, annual reports, blog posts, and tech articles. Their articles have appeared in a wide range of publications and venues including CNBC, Huffington Post, Inc., Forbes, and regional magazines. My only goal is to help all writers look and sound as smart as they are!