During a recent trip to my local home improvement superstore, I encountered retail zombies. You have probably seen them before. They walk slowly, resist making eye contact and have no interest in your well-being – they’re not world-class customer service pros. Their blank stares and macabre behavior should have been enough to scare me away. But my need for appliance paint eclipsed my fear of the walking dead.
“Where can I find the appliance paint?” I asked a retail zombie who was busy rearranging shelf items. Without turning her head to face me, the zombie kept looking straight ahead and uttered something about the next aisle. I lingered for two seconds to see if my presence might make the zombie turn her head towards me. This zombie was oblivious to my existence and so I learned that a zombies’ blank stare is reserved for what they perceive as important. In this case, the shelf items being manipulated had greater priority than a cash-paying customer. This is not good customer service.
Unable to find the appliance paint, I had no choice but to confront the zombie again and escalate our interaction. This second time, I courageously loomed closer in an effort to force a reaction. My proximity did the trick and the zombie had no choice but to face me. “I am unable to find the appliance paint.” I said. This time, the zombie exhaled loudly and then led me to the next aisle and ghoulishly pointed downward to a shelf near the floor without uttering a word. This scary pose was enough to make me flee. I grabbed the appliance paint and made my way to the checkout aisle.
This retail encounter might have turned out differently if the zombies were trained to look at their customers and ask, “Would you like me to show you where it is?” This simple, yet profound sentence transforms zombie encounters from lugubrious to luminous.