Delivering good customer service is paramount to success in today’s competitive economy. In fact, customer service is the one thing that can set you apart in the marketplace. But as you’re about to see, it can set you apart in a good way…or in a bad way.

This is not my baby. I do not know whose baby this is. But she is clearly as appalled by the customer experience at BabiesRUs as I was.

Recently, my husband, Leo, and I went to BabiesRUs to buy some holiday gifts. Now, we’ve been thinking about growing our family next year, but the experience we had at BabiesRUs was so bad, I almost had second thoughts about having a baby of my own. That’s a pretty bad sign, so here are the lessons I wish BabiesRUs learned before we went to their store:

Your store should be clean.

Customer Experience 101 is that your bricks-and-mortar location should be clean. When people shop, they want to feel like they’re buying products that are nice and brand new, which also means “clean.” If products come from a store that isn’t clean, the products don’t feel clean or new or expensive. They feel cheap and kind of gross. And the first thing someone wants for their baby is a clean environment. Since our BabiesRUs wasn’t particularly clean, they really struck out there.

Your promotions should be simple.

At BabiesRUs, there were all kinds of promotions—percentages off, buy one get one free—and many of those promotions were right next to each other. When you see “buy one get one free” signs all around you and the items are all priced about the same and look virtually the same, it seems like they’re all a part of the same promotion. Not so, at BabiesRUs. When we got to checkout and the promotions didn’t apply. Turns out each sign referred to a different buy one, get one free promotion and even though all the items we wanted to buy were the exact same price, they didn’t come from the exact same rack, so the BOGO didn’t apply.

When you have promotions, make them simple and easy for your customers. Customers should never be confused by an offer and it should be easy for them to take advantage of whatever deal you’re running.

Your staff (even your temporary staff) should care.

When we were at checkout, the staff was…well, checked out. I could have set the place on fire and I don’t think they would have noticed. They just didn’t seem to care at all—about their jobs, about the store, or about their customers. The customer service was lacking on all fronts.
Even when you have temporary staff members, your staff should care about their customers. And there are ways to encourage them to care. First, make sure they don’t think about working in your business as a crummy job. Compensate your staff in ways that matter to them. And, you need to train them well. Which leads me to my next point…

Your staff should know how to use the equipment (better than the customers do).

When we finally checked out (irritated, annoyed, and on the verge of giving up the entire purchase), I saw that an old email address came up on the cashier’s screen. I also saw that the screen said, “Do we have your current email address?” and there was a button that said, “F3 No- change address.”

I also do not know whose baby this is, but I don’t think she was happy customer experience at BabiesRUs, either.

I told the cashier that I wanted to update my email address and she said, “I can’t do that here, you’ll have to call in.”
I said, “No, look, that button right there. It says I can change my email address.”
She said, “No, that’s for no change.”
I pointed to it and said, “Why would the screen be asking you to ask me if you have my correct address if they didn’t want you to update it? You have a button right there that, if you push it, will let you update my address.”
She looked doubtful but pushed the button and lo and behold…I was right. Then she asked me to enter my email address on the credit card swipe machine…which only had a numerical keypad.
I said, “I only have numbers. I think you’re supposed to enter it on that keyboard you’ve got there,” and pointed at her keyboard. Which, you know, had letters.
After it took just about ten years to update my email address, I have just one thing to say: Never, ever let your customers be in a situation where they can work your systems than your staff members can. Never.

Your staff should respect the customers.

The best thing you can do to get customers to come back to your establishment again and again is to treat them like gold. Want to know the one thing your staff should never do? Treat your customers like they’re not even there.
While I was talking to one staff member, another staff member came up and started talking to the person I had just been talking to, as if I wasn’t even there. And the person I had been talking to didn’t say, “Let me just finish my conversation with this customer,” but instead had a conversation with the other staff member.
That should never happen.

There’s a lot that you can learn about customer service by visiting stores that get it totally right, but there’s also a great deal to be learned from stores that get it so horribly wrong. Pay attention and make sure you’re learning from the BabiesRUs Anti-Guide to Customer Service!