Every semester when I start my Customer Service classes with a fresh, new batch of students they are always amazed that there is “a whole class on customer service that takes a whole semester to get through”. Everyone thinks they understand customer service because they experience it every day; everyone thinks they understand what makes it good and what makes it not so good.
So a few weeks in, they are given their first assignment. The assignment has to do with observing the service environment at work. They are tasked with choosing a retail outlet and “being a customer” in that outlet for at least 15 minutes. Their job is to compare their experience to a few of the basic elements of a customer focused environment (more on that later), report back their findings and make recommendations on how the customer service could be improved (if applicable). Their reports are always very interesting to read.
After a one-hour session on the customer-focused environment, many (usually all) of these students go to their favourite retail outlet and pick out things they never noticed before: the salesperson talking to a friend; the staff hiding behind the counter; negative body language; cluttered sale items; quick and rude processing of sales; inability of salespeople to answer product-related questions; and the most telling of all (particularly this year) the salesperson who looked very put upon when asked to open a change room / get a different size / get something down from a higher rack. (This one was surprisingly common!)
I’m sure we’ve all been there — that bad customer service experience that makes you wonder how the salespeople in question got hired in the first place. Remember, for every bad customer service experience, the company in question stands to lose quite a few customers via bad word of mouth. It’s much less expensive to keep the customers you have than to make new ones.
So if I could awaken in my students the very basics of good customer service (not even exceptional…just good!) in about an hour — enough to get them thinking about it in a way they haven’t before — why are so many companies still getting this so very wrong? Why am I getting paper after paper outlining very basic mistakes stores are still making?
Some of the basic elements in a customer-focused environment include the following:
You need to understand that without your customer, you don’t have a business. I’m not just talking about your current customers, either. I’m talking about the customers you don’t have yet. It is very important to treat EVERYONE as though they are your ONLY customer, whether they buy something or not. Staff need to understand that they represent the business, not just while they are at work but also while they are away from work — talking to friends, talking about how their day was, talking to people who could be influenced by their impressions of the organization. That brings me to…
What does your organization represent? What are you beliefs and values? What is your mission? Do you strive to be the best provider of up to the minute electronic media? Do you want to ensure that every home in Canada says your name first when they think of running shoes? You get my point. But it can’t just be about how you want to be perceived by your customers; you have to give equal (if not more) weight to how you want to be perceived by your employees. Do you treat them well? Do you value their contributions? Do you encourage them to contribute? Do you empower them to be able to make decisions that affect the outcome of the customer-service relationship? Happy customers are the ones served by happy employees. Those employees, good or bad, are a result of…
Human Resource Policies
Do you provide more than just basic training to your employees? Yes, they all need to know how to operate the cash register and lock the doors and do the cash out at the end of the night. But do you provide meaningful service related training? Do you empower them to make a judgement call if a customer comes in with a return and is 1 day over the 14 day return policy? Do you support your employees when the DO make customer-focused decisions or do you berate them for not “sticking to the script” or worse — policy? Do you allow your employees to ask questions and get answers that help them become better employees? Do you reward them and encourage them to strive to be better than they were the day before? What is their motivation for doing a good job? There are countless studies that show that money isn’t the primary motivator for many people, no matter what they say. So do you know what motivates your employees?
These are just a few of the elements that make up a truly positive customer-focused environment, but they are among, in my opinion, the most important. If you have a happy and motivated employee, it DOES show. It comes across in how they carry themselves, their body language, their rapport with customers and each other, their ability to do their job and be proud of it.
A lot of companies complain that proper training costs too much, or that employees are fickle and won’t stick around so why bother investing time and money in training, or that it’s just too hard to train people! I’m saying that if I can get someone to at least start THINKING about where customer service is going wrong in about an hour, then it’s a lot easier than you think.
Here in Canada we are very particular about our coffee. In fact, that probably holds true everywhere. Our morning boost accounts for billions of dollars in sales here in North America alone and people are very into tailored coffee. Whether it’s a “double-double” or “venti”, the bottom line is many of us can’t cope without that caffeine buzz.
I love Tim Hortons. I do. They have, in my humble opinion, the best baked goods in the game…and their coffee ain’t half bad, either. They’ve recently expanded their menu into sandwiches, mini sandwiches, paninis, specialty drinks, and a lot more. The new menu options have opened up Tim’s to a whole new market. Personally, I still like the odd tea or “double-double” coffee. The fact that Tim’s has incredibly reasonable prices as well is a super bonus, especially in this age of $8.00 designer coffees.
Starbucks, on the other hand, has some wonderfully refreshing caffeine concoctions. I enjoy the occasional latte or frappuccino, and their seasonal drinks are great ways to celebrate the changing of the seasons. They can be a little on the pricy side but I haven’t had a bad coffee yet.
But here’s the thing: while Tim’s staff has always (in my experience) been friendly and accommodating, Starbucks staff seem to go that little bit further in providing exemplary customer service. Case in point, I have been a regular customer at both my local Tim’s and my local Starbucks, always ordering more or less the same thing, at more or less the same time of day. Tim’s staff always greet me with a smile, a kind word and a thank you for your custom. Starbucks staff, on the other hand, do the same, but they always manage to remember what my drink order is, even at the drive-thru. My morning barista always seems to recognize my voice and have my drink order ready to process before I even order it. If I go in to order, I am always greeted with recognition.
Now I’m not the Starbucks equivalent of Norm from Cheers by any stretch of the imagination. There is another Starbucks location that I will go to from time to time (maybe 2-3 times a month) and yet somehow they always remember me. I’ve taken my daughter with me once and there is one particular barista there who asks about her whenever I visit.
I know that the argument is an old one, but DOES better service make the higher prices easier to swallow with your morning drink? Should it? There are countless examples of retail outlets that are filled with expensive merchandise but excellent service is nowhere to be found. What makes coffee / tea joints different? People are always filling the tables at both Tim’s and Starbucks; both offer benefits and compensation plans to their employees; both seem to have a fairly positive organizational culture. So what accounts for the difference in not just the price, but the service?
I’m interested in hearing your opinions!
The lease on my current car is almost up and we have been looking around for a new one. I love my current car, and the service by the Lexus dealership (and via Twitter) has been great. But we think we may need something a bit bigger. So I recently shared on Twitter that I was thinking about the Enclave. I’ve seen it on the road, and in commercials, and it is a really nice looking SUV. Plus it’s bigger than what we have and just might do the trick.
Well I was encouraged via Twitter by some friends to check it out. Even @Buick tweeted me and told me to take it for a test drive. So I thought I’d go give it a look. I stopped by the local Buick dealership with my baby in tow thinking that if I didn’t like the way it looked on the inside then there was no point in considering it any further. If I did like it, then we could go back as a family and take it for a test drive.
I walked into the dealership and there was the receptionist behind the counter. To her right was a saleslady talking to a guy (the guy obviously didn’t work there). I told the receptionist I was interested in looking at the Enclave as my current lease was expiring and we were exploring our options. She said “okay I’ll see if I can get someone”. I turned my attention to my baby and a few seconds later I heard the conversation happening only 4 feet away from me.
Receptionist: She just wants to look at an Enclave.
Guy: It’s ok. Go.
Receptionist: Just show her quickly. She just wants to see it.
Guy: Don’t worry about me. I don’t want you to lose a sale.
Receptionist: She just wants to see the Enclave quickly.
Um… why were they trying to convince the saleslady to serve me? Did I not look worth serving? Did she not need the sale? Was she too busy talking to her friend? I was confused. At that point the receptionist said, “this lady will show you the Enclave” and it seemed as though she literally had to nudge the saleslady forward. I actually said, “Are you sure, because it doesn’t seem like you want to”. The saleslady remained quiet. The guy then said “oh don’t worry, I’m from the East Coast, we’re laid back people. I’m in no rush, she can come back and chat with me later”. So I take it she was more interested in chatting with her friend than serving a customer.
Without introducing herself she walked forward and said, “there is an enclave in the front parking lot”. I wanted to follow her out, but she was walking a step or two behind me so I led myself, baby in tow, to the parking lot. It was an older Enclave. It was a base model. I explained that I was interested in seeing a new one, with a leather interior, a nav system, DVDs etc as that is the one we would consider and that the interior was important to me. At that point she said, “Well, we might have one in the back but if it’s not there I don’t want to make you walk there with your baby so just let me go check”. She went inside the dealership. I waited. And waited. And waited. I was about to leave when I saw her come out one of the side doors and motion towards me.
I carried my baby (who, by the way, was in the carseat = heavy) all the way to the back lot and arrived at the new Enclave. “This is it”, she said. When I asked to look inside, she said she didn’t have the keys. What? I wanted to see the interior of the new Enclave and you didn’t bring the keys? Why did I walk all the way back here! She told me to look through the TINTED windows to see it. I couldn’t believe it. I thanked her and started to walk back to my car. She asked me if I wanted to book a test drive. Um, no thanks.
I was not only disappointed in the service – I was offended. Of course, I took to Twitter and heard nothing back from @buickcanada. I had decided I was pretty much done with the Enclave, even though I am REALLY interested in the car. That service just really turned me off and I can’t bring myself to spend that much money on something from people who don’t treat me right. A few days later my friend asked me (via Twitter) if I had heard back from @buick. At that point, @buick (US) chimed in and asked if they could help me with something. I showed them my previous tweets explaining the situation and they directed me to an online page where I could provide comments (in Canada). I did just that.
My usual experience with providing comments on a website is that no one cares. But the next day I got a call from GM Canada’s customer care. I was impressed. Although nothing really came of it, I was able to share my experience about the dealership so that something could be done to improve the service. GM offered to set up a test drive for me at a dealer of my choice. Although I declined, just that little gesture of the follow-up call eased my discontent with everything Buick. I think I will go back to another dealer to check out the Enclave again. Hopefully this time they will show me what it actually looks like.
Do you have any car-related customer service experiences? Let us know!
We received an email from one of our followers about his customer service experience at the Bay. We can understand his frustration when you’re dealing with a company that has different on-line and in-store policies. It’s the same company isn’t it? The same brand? The same item? So why the different rules?
My Customer Service issue started here: http://www.thebay.com/eng/home-Eileen_8_Cup_French_Press-thebay/198239 on The Bay’s website. I went there, before heading out, to see if they still carried the Bodum brand; as my elegant French Press coffee maker had developed a crack and small leak and needed replacing. Working from home, I make coffee everyday and couldn’t wait to get a replacement.
I found the ’8 Cup Eileen’ model on The Bay’s website for $29.99 ($39.99 if you wanted the ‘Gold’ version – I didn’t) and headed to the nearest mall to purchase. I found their Bodum section quite quickly, and ‘Eileen’, but noticed ‘she’ was priced at $39.99. I took the box to the nearest cashier and she said ‘Did you find everything you were looking for today?’ I said yes, but I would like to pay the price that this item is advertised for on your website. To which she replied ‘Let me have a look…’ Upon finding what I had found (and you can see) on The Bay’s website, she first said ‘the picture looks a bit smaller than the one you have here.’ I said ‘It’s an 8 Cup Eileen, isn’t it?’ She then went to the display to see if there was another size, and there wasn’t. Returning to her desk, she said ‘the prices are different on the web and, if I wanted it for $29.99, I’d have to buy it there.’ I was shocked that they’d let me walk away for $10, but they did. I have also explored The Bay’s website since, to see if there are any specifications on ‘Web Pricing’ or discounts and there are none.
Later that day I was in Burlington, and decided to stop in to Mapleview Mall for some unrelated items. Remembering there was a Bay store there, I decided to see if they would respond differently to my request to pay the price posted on their website. The customer service there was even more abrupt, and I was told that ‘they could not sell it to me at that price’; with no real explanation. As I calmly shared my frustration, and walked away, leaving ‘Eileen’ on the counter, the CSR shouted after me that ‘If I was to signup for a Bay Card, she could give me 15% off!’ Thanks… But No Thanks. I have since shared my frustration, politely, via Twitter; referencing The Bay’s official Twitter handle. I even followed them, to give them a fair opportunity to send me a private direct message (DM). I haven’t received a response. Though they have been quite busy tweeting-up their Olympic apparel line.
Later that day I discovered Tamp Coffee Co., a new specialty coffee shop in Downtown Burlington, still under-construction at the time, and not ‘officially’ opened for business. I was welcomed in by the owners, shown some options and alternatives to a French Press, and treated to some wonderful coffee — What a difference!
Following is a tale of customer service gone wrong. We received this email from one of our Service Scoops followers in Winnipeg. It’s an example of some of the big issues in customer service, including not empowering employees to actually attend to the customer’s need rather than the bottom line or quota. This leads to the customer feeling like they’re not really being listened to which then leads to customer dissatisfaction.
My story involving customer service from Staples Canada is a tale of ignorance and arrogance. It all started when my HP laptop started to overheat. At first I thought it was due to the change in the recent weather change; Winnipeg has been enduring quite the ongoing heat wave. But to my surprise it was actually the cooling fan that was in dire need of being replaced. A friend told me a simple replacement would cost me a mere twenty dollars plus tax.
So off I went to Staples where I told the technology sales associate behind the counter what the problem seemed to be. He, however, tells me otherwise; it first needs a hardware diagnostic to confirm whether that is in fact the case. When I told him I was sure what the issue was, this employee strongly insisted otherwise. His tone of voice and body language clearly showed he was uncaring toward me as customer. My opinion didn’t matter.
The first sign I knew I was being robbed blindly by this individual was the fact he did not even bother to make eye contact and decided to look at a pricing chart, which I am under the educated assumption was the same pricing list used for the services that I was requesting.
I gave quite a verbal reassurance that there was more than enough evidence to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the cooling fan needed to be replaced. The second piece of evidence is the fact he raised his voice when I asked about when I could get a call letting me know what the diagnostic turned up.
I was told was ‘two days’. ‘Two days’ is a VERY vague answer from a retailer because there is no reference to whether they mean ‘business days’ or days of the week. He didn’t clarify; I was left assuming two business days which meant waiting till Wednesday (as the day in question was a Saturday). At this point, I was aggravated because of these two factors: customer service being vague and the fact the associate raised his voice to me as a customer.
In the ten years that I worked in retail, the saying ‘The customer is always right.’ became my mantra. As it turned out, I was right and he was wrong. In the end I paid close to ninety dollars to have a dust cleaning. The good news is my laptop is dust free. The bad news is my built-in speakers are acting up; I do not get any sound when I plug in my earphones and my cooling fan STILL needs to be replaced because the processor is running at half its normal speed.
I sent an e-mail to Staples with the hope an actual person from customer service would be nice enough to reply. The only thing I wanted was (hopefully) store credit and/or an apology. The e-mail response was… a request to fill out an online survey. On the plus side Best Buy was nice enough to sell me a cooling mat as an alternative to replacing my cooling fan. Funny thing, the same item is also sold at Staples.
*Note* This post has been modified for length and to keep in accord with Service Scoops’ guidelines.
When I think of good customer service, I think it should be provided across the board. There is a difference between good customer service and “extra” services.
To me customer service is all of the actions and activities that go along with my purchase to make my experience as a consumer satisfying. That friendly smile, knowledgeable staff to help me be confident in my choice, a well-staffed store that has representatives readily available to help you out and ring you up, you know – the obvious things. Actions that I think are pretty reasonable to expect from any establishment that is run/managed well.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of shopping – summer sales for housewares, kids fall wardrobe, car shopping with a friend, suit shopping with my husband – and I made a very quick observation one day: Most of the time at the higher-end shops, we have been treated with exceptional customer service. We visited two different Harry Rosen stores and two Hugo Boss stores and the sales people were amazing. Very friendly, understanding of our silly kids, took the time to talk to us (and the kids), not pushy, and just great all around.
I said to my husband “well, I guess that’s why we’re paying more…”… and then I stopped. No, that can’t be it, because both times we visited Holt Renfrew we received horrible service (read: not much service at all). Granted, it was an outlet, but the prices are still quite high, the product quality is still high, and one of those Harry Rosen stores we went to above was an outlet. So I thought about it some more…
When I go to the local Walmart for groceries and other household items I go because they are cheaper than if I went to the new grocery store across the street. So if I’m going for a cheaper product, maybe I shouldn’t expect good customer service…except that I usually get pretty good customer service at my Walmart. And when I DO go to the grocery store across the street, I actually don’t remember getting any service that stands out.
And what about kids clothing stores – I LOVE Bonnie Togs. The prices are reasonable, their return policy is unbelievable, the staff is always so friendly and they never ask you any questions to make you feel guilty when you are returning an (unworn) item you bought the year before. When I shop for kids stuff at this other store (where the prices are substantially higher), the sales people have made me feel like I’m being scolded because their online-purchase return policy is different from their store-purchase return policy even though I can return stuff I bought online in the store!
With regards to cars, we pay more for one of our cars than we do for the other, but we’ve received great customer service from both dealerships and both sales people. Granted the dealership for the car we pay more for also has “customer appreciation nights” where you get the inside scoop on new models, and they also clean our car really well when we take it in for an oil change. But it is not the customer service we are paying more for, it’s the product (the more luxurious car with all the bells and whistles) and maybe the “extra” services (like the appreciation nights and the car detailing).
Just like at the Harry Rosen – they provide extra services like in-house tailoring, and the suits are top quality, but the customer service – that friendly sales person who adds so much to the buying experience – doesn’t cost me extra. If it did, I would be getting the same service at ALL high-end stores, and not much more than someone to “ring me up” at places where the products cost less.
So contrary to what some people may say and think, customer service isn’t attached to a higher price tag. It should be a standard across the board. Obviously some will provide better service than others but I believe that no matter where I go, I should leave with a truly satisfying consumer experience.-Shai
Customers. We have all been one at some point. Most of us have complaints about the experience as well. We have such particular expectations about how we should be treated, how quickly we should be attended to, what the customer service rep’s answer / reaction / wish-fulfilling should entail. As Shai’s previous post mentions, however, sometimes we need to take a step back and be more understanding ourselves.
Take today, for example. I have been a customer at a particular financial institution for pretty much my entire banking life here in Canada. I’ve never had any complaints or any concerns. However, recently there was a small issue that needed addressing, and (thanks to their social media team, the financial advisor and a healthy understanding of good customer service) it was addressed. An appointment was made for me to go in and see someone to take care of a few things. The situation arose as a result of some crossed wires between my bank and a particular government office, through no real fault of my bank’s…but the fallout has been an enormous pain in my backside. So I was a little annoyed from the get-go, and was looking forward to finally sorting it out.
But “life problems” prevailed. I have had a particularly bad week. I injured myself during my most recent run. I had some bad news about another issue. An organization I’m aligned with is going through some upheaval and I’m being asked to find time to step in. Finally, my little girl is home sick today with a fever and is refusing all attempts to medicate her. So I had to cancel my appointment. I called the branch, a branch that I have never had a problem getting through to, and a branch that never puts me through to a call centre but directly to their customer service representatives / tellers in-branch… and got asked to hold?? Seriously? I have a crying preschooler hanging onto my leg, I’m in the middle of trying to make her some lunch, I have had an all-around stressful day and all I want to do is cancel a stupid appointment! Five minutes go by, then 10, then 15. I hung up, very annoyed. I called back. This time nobody answered at all, it went straight to voice mail! How dare they! I was doing them a courtesy calling to cancel my appointment at all! I could have just not gone! So I left a rather curt message, giving only my name, and informing them I couldn’t come to my appointment and that I wouldn’t have left a message if someone had bothered answering (I’m paraphrasing here). I slammed the phone down and slammed a few cupboard doors for good measure. Whew, that felt good. I got on the Twitter and had a rant; I even considered moving banks! (Ha! I know!)
Well, about 20 minutes later the phone rang. It was my bank. A very nice teller that I deal with regularly called back to apologise for missing my call and informed me that she had 3 people in line at her customer service desk and all of the other tellers were busy as well. She apologised again and told me she had cancelled my appointment, inviting me to call her back directly to reschedule at my convenience. Well…I felt like a bit of a tool, really. Here’s why: SHE WAS JUST DOING HER JOB. AND DOING IT WELL. They all were.
How would she know I’d had a bad or stressful day? I was projecting my frustrations and stresses onto her and her organization. But she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do — treating the customers IN the branch as the priority over the customers on the phone. (Seriously, how many times have you walked into a place of business and had to stand there like a muppet because the rep decided the phone was more important than you, who actually came into the store to conduct your business?) She handled it really well, by calling me back (having to find my number first — I didn’t leave it, remember?), apologising and confirming that she’d cancelled my appointment for me. Follow up and follow through. Excellent customer service by any standard.
So what is the point of my post today? That yes, we are all subjected to awful customer service — unfortunately more often than any of us would like. But every now and again we are privy to good (sometimes excellent) customer service and we’re too blinded by our own issues to see it. So we take it out on the rep we’re dealing with or more recently take to social media to complain about it. I think as customers we do need step back once in a while and really assess whether our expectations of service are reasonable and realistic. Can the rep actually do what we’re asking? Is it within the scope of their authority? Is my expectation reasonable at all? Customer service gets such a bad rap, and a lot of the time deservedly so. But sometimes the problem isn’t with the service…it’s with the customer.
I love shoes. I really do. There isn’t much that will stop me from buying a pair of shoes that I really want, except (wait for it)…bad customer service.
Earlier this year, my husband bought me a few gift cards for my birthday so that I would shop for myself instead of the kids. Knowing about my love for shoes, he got me one for Nine West. I spent days (yes, days) going through the shoes online and narrowing it down to those I wanted to try on since it’s not easy for me to get to the mall with a baby. Once I got there, they didn’t have my size in the pair that I decided on. The sales lady told me I could buy it on-line with my gift card so I went home, placed the order but then learned at check out that I in fact could NOT use a gift card. Disappointed, I tweeted about it. Almost immediately I got a response from Nine West on Twitter and they asked me which shoes I wanted and that they would have them sent to the store of my choice. I was impressed.
Being told they would be there by Tuesday, I headed back to the mall but the shoes hadn’t yet arrived. When I got home I got a message that they had just gotten them in and I responded that my next opportunity to go to the mall would be Friday. Friday came and I tried on the shoes (loved them) and proceeded to pay. But then another issue – my gift card “didn’t work”. Why, I don’t know. They were able to verify the gift card was valid and unused but I was told that I couldn’t use it and there was nothing they could do until they could call Head Office on Monday. That was that.
Not only was I disappointed – I was annoyed. This was my third time at the store and I once again left empty handed. I was actually going to buy a second pair there too, but I decided that all the inconvenience as well as the less than pleasant attitude I received at the store warranted me not buying the shoes. So I took to Twitter and tweeted my disappointment – nothing rude, nothing expected, just what happened. Within an hour I received a message on Twitter as well as a call from the store indicating they were going to remedy the situation – and they did.
They shipped the shoes to my house, provided me with a tracking number, gave me a discount for my inconvenience and even followed up. They redeemed themselves, and they did it quickly. I didn’t expect a discount, I would have been happy that they just shipped me the shoes. But the whole situation made me think about a few things.
Social media is powerful. The first time I tweeted, I didn’t expect Nine West to offer to have the shoes sent to my store of choice. The second time I tweeted I didn’t expect anything at all but the tweet got me a phone call from the store and a full remedy. It led to a resolution that is going to lead to me buying that second pair. But in that power of social media, I know that I have to be fair too – which is why I tweeted again about the remedy and how much I loved the shoes when I got them. It’s also why I’m writing this post, because I want people to know that Nine West did a great job in resolving my issue. And that was always the main push for me behind Service Scoops – letting people know where to find good customer service.
The situation showed me too that this company works together as a team – from head office, to the store, to the hero behind the twitter account. And that is how a good company should work – together.
It also was a good reminder that as much as we expect good customer service from stores and restaurants and service providers, us customers also have to be reasonable. Being unnecessarily rude or unreasonable isn’t going to make the situation any better.
All in all, my shoe story had a happy ending. So thank you Nine West – for the shoes, the discount, and the final push I needed to start Service Scoops.-Shai
If there’s one thing I will applaud stores on it is the addition of the Express Lane. You know, 10 items or less? Love it. There’s nothing worse than having two or three items to purchase and being stuck behind someone who has a trolley full! (What’s worse is when that person also proceeds to demand a price check on every item against that week’s flyer.)
What makes the Express Lane work is that you know everyone is there to make a quick purchase and so the line moves quickly. What doesn’t work is when the line is backed up down the middle of the store, blocking entry to the actual establishment, and there are only three of the available six tills open.
This very thing happened to me yesterday, and frankly has happened to me before. Always at the same time of day… the “witching hour” right after work at about 4:30pm. I know it’s a busy time of day, because everyone is stopping off at the shops on their way home from work to pick up items needed that evening. But that’s the thing, surely I can’t be the only one who knows that. Surely the stores have become aware of this fact, too? You would think, knowing the demand for service at that time, they would schedule staff accordingly? Granted there are times when the rush is unexpected and staffing levels have to be adjusted to cope, but when you know it’s a consistently busy time of day, is it really appropriate for over 40 people to be standing in the Express Lane to pay for a handful of items at three tills that are moving super slow because every single customer is being harassed to sign up for a store-card? (Is this really an appropriate time to be asking? I want to buy my stuff and get home!)
Now you may be thinking, “So, Sarah, why don’t you just go shopping at a less busy time of day?” That is hardly the point. It’s not my job to make the stores’ staffing decisions work; it’s their job to staff employees according to demand.
I hear about this happening more and more. Stores need to consider the impact this is having on the customer experience. Sure, the store in question has cheap prices and is generally a convenient place to shop (ie: I can get pretty much everything I need in one place). So in some respects, I suppose they can be forgiven for thinking (or can they? Stay tuned for THAT debate in a future post) “people will shop here regardless”. But the bottom line is, for every extra minute a customer has to spend in a CONVENIENCE line they are getting angry and frustrated at the lack of convenience. For every customer that is angry and frustrated, you run the risk of losing either customer loyalty or good word of mouth. If you are the only joint in town I supposed you can be forgiven (or can you?) for thinking you have a captive audience. While in this particular instance that may be true, it won’t be for much longer. For example, Target has been slowly planting roots here in the Great White North and they have a history of customer engagement that their counterparts could stand to learn a thing or two from.
So what do you think? Do you agree? Is this the price I pay for being able to get all of my shopping done in one place? Or should that convenience extend all the way past the checkout? Leave a comment and let me know!
Okay, so as a teen I used to work at a fast food restaurant. It was my first job. One of those big chains. Not at all glamorous, but it was a lot of fun and, perhaps most importantly, it set the foundation of customer service skills I built on after that. Future employers often looked at my resume and said they liked to hire people who had worked at that particular chain because they taught great customer service to their employees – and it was true.
We always had to say “please” and “thank you” when asking from and responding to our colleagues. Our customers had to be greeted immediately. We had to be attentive. We had to solve the problems. And MOST important was the Drive Thru. I remember the Drive Thru training vividly – greet customer as soon as they pull up to the speaker. Ask if that’s all, repeat their order and provide the total before they start driving to the window. Greet customer as soon as they get to the window, even if it is to say “Hi there – it’ll just be a moment”. And if it is going to be more than a moment – park them so the cars behind don’t have to wait.
Priority for the food always went to Drive Thru. The point was to get the orders fast, get them right, and and keep them happy. Being “promoted” to work the Drive Thru window was a big thing – it meant you were good.
So what has happened? I mean, the steps above aren’t that complicated are they? Did the companies change their training? Or just not monitor their employees anymore (we never knew when we were being listened to by management, and they were ALWAYS looking at our line-times)? Or am I the only one who cares?
I often use the Drive Thru. But it usually goes like this:
Step One – Greet customer as soon as they pull up to speaker : Okay, they usually do this, but there are the times when you’re waiting for what seems like forever and no one has said anything. At that point you start to wonder if you missed the greeting, if the speaker is broken, if they’re closed, or if you’ve lost your hearing. At least say “welcome to (wherever) – I’ll be with you in a moment”.
Step Two – Ask if that’s all, repeat order and provide total: Okay, maybe not a “crucial” step to be completed in totality but its simple enough to be done. I usually get “okay that’s (x amount), drive up”. Which is fine, but sadly about 30% of the time my order is wrong when I get to the window (and therefore the total). Or I get “drive up” without a total, and when I get to the window and find out how much it is the employee is giving me looks because I have to put the money together.
Step Three – Greet customer as soon as they get to the window: This rarely happens. And like the confused customer sitting at the speaker with the window open cleaning out my ears, I’m now staring at someone through a window who is either chatting with an employee or the next customer at the speaker. And so I wait… and wait… and when they finally open the window they don’t even say hello! They either say the total, or hand me a drink without saying anything. Seriously? That’s what they teach now?
And then if I want to pay with debit they pass me the terminal and the window closes (I know most are on a sensor), and after I’m done pushing all the buttons and remove my card, my arm is still hanging out the window holding the terminal waiting for the employee to notice that I’ve been done for a while now and to take the thing back!
Step Four – If its going to be more than a moment, park the car: I always get annoyed when I’m behind someone who’s order is taking a long time and they don’t get parked. And then when I get to the window my order (which has been ready and sitting there the whole time) is warm/soggy/cold/. Just park them.
So I finally get my order and – as mentioned before – 30% of the time it’s wrong (I go to Drive Thru a lot). But the employee has already left and I can’t get their attention and I hold up the rest of the line. Worse is when I don’t check it at the window (why should I?) and I then have to park the car and go inside to fix my order (defeats the purpose…). Or the WORST – when I drive off and realize that they’ve given me a coffee instead of a tea. Ugh.
Okay, I know this is a bit of a rant. But I just don’t get why customer service has changed so much when it comes to Drive Thru. Is it the companies not teaching this stuff anymore? Or the people providing it don’t care?