Is your bark worse than your bite?

Obviously, staff manning the shops able to stay open during lock down have been working under considerably stressful circumstances and we thank them in keeping the nation watered and fed. Without a doubt, working in the retail sector under the current conditions is stressful. Whilst we are all grateful to those shops I wonder how well the staff are managing.

I have heard, and indeed experienced scenarios, where the language used fired up situations with customers and could have been avoided with staff understanding the impact of their choice of words and tone:

  • A lady asking for help from a member of staff and promptly being (incorrectly) accused of shop lifting
  • A customer being asked for proof of purchase by just having the word ‘receipt’ barked at them
  • A gentleman being told to ‘hurry up and move out of the way’ whilst trying to find the correct medication in a pharmacy
  • A lady being shouted to ‘stand back and wait for me to say when you can move’ and then told ‘come forward now’ less than a second later
  • A member of staff not listening to the customer saying ‘is there anything else I can help you with’ the customer responding ‘you haven’t helped me with this so no’ the staff member then said ‘lovely, thank you, bye’!

I am sure these are isolated incidents but using more positive language and tone would have made staff’s lives easier, and avoided stressed customers rising up and in one instance vowing to never return to the store again!

In my experience, people do not appreciate the impact they have in ‘firing up’ or ‘defusing’ a situation.

TRAGIC – Negative language

Focuses the customer on what cannot be done and can have a subtle tone of blame. It includes words like can’t, won’t, unable.

  • You say that…
  • You should/must
  • Why didn’t you…….

MAGIC – Positive language

Suggests alternatives and choices available to the customer sounding helpful and encouraging rather than bureaucratic. It stresses positive actions and consequences.

  • I understand…..
  • Here is what we can do…
  • If you could do this, we can…

This approach together with active listening, make even the trickiest of interactions more effective. It encourages a positive two-way interaction and prevents situations spiralling into avoidable complaints.

To find out more about communication skills for your staff, we can offer you virtual sessions via power hours for teams or on a one-to-one basis. To organise a session contact Annie Mulady at Mulady Solutions Ltd on:

Call: 01628 475988 or email:

Who’s Zooming Who?

I heard a piece on Radio 4 back in 2014 about whether on-line learning was going to replace face to face training.

Events over the last couple of months have dragged me out of my ‘normal’ to providing one to one Zoom sessions for participants who are completing a management development programme. My conclusion is that both training formats have their place.

On-line training has its advantages, potential cost savings – particularly when participants are spread out geographically and it can also reduce the amount of administration in producing materials and organisation of training sessions. It is self-paced and more individual – on a one to one basis, delegates can focus on the training content they specifically need support in and subjects not necessarily on the original agenda can be covered. For example, in one session a participant requested advice on how to support a member of staff with a very specific and unusual issue which I was able to help with.

What subjects are best suited to on-line learning?

Process and technology/systems-based training suits E-learning and my experience so far has highlighted that subjects that work particularly well on-line are:

  • Setting and Managing Goals
  • Positive Appraisals
  • Managing Change
  • Pragmatic Problem Solving

Some subjects are better suited to the format of face to face. Group discussions and facilitated learning is more powerful than informing or telling. It creates an environment that encourages open discussion and learning from others. You can bring different organisations/departments together resulting in the bonus of sharing knowledge and best practice and training can be ‘high energy’ to facilitate different learning styles and get the blood circulating and energy levels high.

What subjects are best suited to face to face sessions?

  • Customer Service Skills
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Presenting with Panache
  • Building Top Teams

Both on-line and face to face training have their place, but the question should be asked – which forum will meet our participants needs the best before embarking on possibly costly mistakes.

To discuss your training and development needs, contact Annie Mulady on 01628 475988 or