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: