50 thoughts on turning 50: #19 Go out of your way to say, “Job well done”

well done 2

I recently went to WalMart to have photos printed and to purchase two small, inexpensive frames. As I meandered through the store, I took a detour through the women’s department, noticed the capris were on sale, and loaded up my cart with several styles and sizes to see if I could find something that fit

I don’t know about other women, but I just can’t buy clothing based on the size on the tag. A size 8 can fall off me while a 10 cuts off circulation to my legs. Something that fits perfectly in blue fits entirely different in a different color of the exact same size, in the same style, and from the same manufacturer.

All of that is to say that when I got to the dressing room, I had a cart full of pants. I was going to be there for a while.

While I tried on and discarded item after item, I could hear the girl who was manning the fitting room and switchboard as she answered the phone and directed calls to other departments. She took a call from a customer who was apparently looking for a filter for their aquarium. I got the sense they didn’t know what size they needed but had other information. .

Almost the entire time I was in the fitting room, I could the employee talking to the customer, making calls to other departments and possibly calling other stores to see if they had the filter the customer wanted, and doing her best to figure out what the customer needed and if the store had it. She was also fielding and directing other incoming calls and letting other customers into the fitting rooms. What struck me was that I never heard her get frustrated or flustered; she was calm and pleasant and helpful.

When I was finally done, she’d gone to lunch. I headed over to the photo department, where I used the photo kiosk to order prints. When I checked with the photo counter to confirm that they’d be one hour, the young man working there told me he’d have them for me in about 10 minutes.

I found my photo frames and went back to the photo counter, where the young man another employee – a young girl – were talking. They were relaxed and chatty, but not in that “I don’t want to be here” kind of way employees  sometimes can are. I finally asked them if they liked working there. Both said yes, and the girl told me that her  job is to help customers, and she enjoyed that.

At the checkout, I had yet another great employee. Usually the cashiers at WalMart are talking to each other and ignoring the customer, or are so surly you just want to get out before someone bites your head off. Not my cashier. She was super friendly, made eye contact, and asked me if I’d found everything.

I can’t remember the names of those four employees now, but at the time I’d jotted them down on the palm of my hand.

After I’d checked out, I headed directly to Customer Service. I waited in a fairly long line, and when it was my turn I asked for the manager, who happened to be the person waiting on me. I could see her tense up a bit, ready for whatever complaint I had. Instead I opened my hand and said, “I had the greatest shopping experience today, and I want to make sure that you know these four employees are the reason.”

She couldn’t get a piece of paper and pen fast enough.

She made notes while I told her that I could hear from the fitting room how the clerk had answered the phone and dealt with what was probably a frustrating customer need. I told her how the two employees at the photo department had made me feel like the only reason they came to work that day was to help me. I told her that the cashier was one of the most pleasant cashiers who ever waited on me at WalMart.

The manager thanked me several times for taking time to personally tell her that her employees were doing a good job. She said that most people only take time to complain. When people have a good experience? They enjoy it and move on with their day. She also said she really needed to hear my feedback that day, and she knew the employees would be grateful, too. The cashier was brand new; what a great way to start her employment with the store.

So here’s where the lesson comes in.

I’ve been doing this kind of thing for a few years, after I tried to do a “30 days of gratitude” experiment. The one thing that I really enjoyed, and I know helped other people, was taking time at least once a week to actually write a note or talk to a manager to recognize an employee who did a great job. I always feel great when I do it, and I know the employees and managers appreciate it.

A lot of chain stores have those “Give us your opinion and win $” things printed on the bottom of their receipt. I never do those. First of all, by the time I’m home I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say or the name of the person who helped me. But secondly, it’s not the just compliment you’re passing on. It’s the energy.

If you do an electronic feedback a day after your shopping experience, the glow had worn off. You’re talking to your computer at the corporate office. The computer talks to another computer. It might be a week or a month before your compliment gets to the store, and then it’s just pixels on a screen.

But giving feedback face to face? You’re smiling, the manager’s smiling; she tells the employee that day that someone said they did a great job. The employee takes that positive energy and brings it to the next customer.

And I love how it makes me feel. In fact, if I didn’t think I’d get hauled off to the looney bin, I’d carry around little “Good Job!” stickers and hand them out to employees myself.

You don’t even have to really talk to the manager – you can take a moment to fill out a comment card right then and there, while you’re in the store. It’s really about taking time in that moment to show your appreciation, and doing it solely to be kind, not for the chance to win a gift card.

Maybe the best part of making this a habit is that I’m always looking for good customer service. And guess what? I find it more often than bad customer service, because I think you find in life what you look for.

Why not try and make giving a pat on the back part of your regular shopping routine? Start with a comment card as you check out at Wegmans? It takes less than a minute (I know because I do it a lot). But if you really want a treat, next time you’ve found a great employee, tell the manager in person.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

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