Did you feel it this Christmas season? Love was in the air. I’m not talking about the warm fuzzy feeling you get during the holidays, I’m talking about customer service.

Did you notice it? It seems everywhere I went, employees were all over me. “Can I help you?” “Did you find everything you were looking for?”  These are very basic customer service questions that have seemed to elude employees for the last several years. Last year it seemed as if employees would run in the opposite direction if it looked like I had a question. But WOW!!  This year, I was the king!

On four different trips to three different toys-r-us stores, I was actually helped and respected! One employee actually went to the store room to see if they had any of the hard to find“hot-head” Skylander figures in stock. He came back with a huge pallet of boxes and proceeded to dig through each one of them looking for the elusive toy. Another employee couldn’t find a particular board game that my kiddies had to have, so she went online and ordered it. She even used her own “code” to waive the shipping fees. In both cases, the employees were very pleasant and treated me with dignity. What is going on?!?! At one point I had to glimpse upwards to see if any pigs were flying by.

I recently read an article about a pregnant woman that went to dinner with her family at a local Red Robin Restaurant. When the bill arrived the waiter had comped her meal and wrote on the receipt “Mom 2 Bee.Good luc”. This is apparently as a result of recent policy changes at Red Robin that gives the staff a little leeway to please it’s customers. Wow, I think I’m going to cry! I will be eating at Red Robin a little more often. And isn’t that the point? Please the customer and you will get repeat business! What a concept.

Okay, so what’s the deal?  Why all this sudden attention to customer service? It appears as though retailers and restaurateur’s have finally begun to realize how important customer service really is. I have been saying it for years, I would rather spend a little extra and go to a place that treated me nicely, then save a little and get treated like I was a nuisance.

Home Depot recently released a statement saying that were hiring thousands of more employees to help with the apparent lack of “floor help”. Best Buy also has hired more employees and retrained their staff to be more courteous and helpful. In both of these cases I think it was a last ditch effort to get people into their stores, and avoid shuttering it’s doors.

The biggest issue with retailers is on-line competition. Why drive to a store, be treated rudely and end up spending more on a product that I could simply order on-line and have shipped directly to me? But what if I went to the store, was treated nicely and professionally and ended up with the same savings? Well Target seems interested in trying this very kind of thing. Recently they started an online “price match” guarantee against online giant Amazon and other online stores such as Walmart and Toys-R-Us. But saving money is just the beginning. Unless the physical act of shopping at a store doesn’t improve, people will still order on-line. But at least it seems perhaps, that someone has finally realized how valuable good customer service is. I hope that it’s not too little, too late.

I enjoy going to the store, mindlessly wandering the aisles and watching people. It would be a sad thing for that experience to disappear as retailers continue to close their doors. Our children and our children’s children would not know the joy of people watching and socializing with complete strangers at the store.

In these days of Facebook, texting,  tweeting and whatever other “social media” there may be, a little human contact is desperately needed. So get off-line and go out and shop. Talk to people, run….play…socialize! Get your nose off your cell phone, stop texting, go to your friends house and talk to them face to face!  If things don’t change, I envision a future full of Howard Hughes’. Locked in a dark house, the light blue glimmer of a computer screen reflecting off our unshaven faces. Long hair, three inch fingernails and bottles of urine spread about the room. YIKES!!!!!  Stop the insanity!

Wait…..what was I talking about? Oh yeah..customer service. So lets hope that this new trend of real customer service continues and that this past holiday season was not some sort of fluke.

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