I went into a Ralph‘s last week in a bit of rush to get a few groceries and when it came time to head to the checkout line I was faced with three frustrating options: 1) Wait in an express line behind 6 people, 2) wait in a non-express line behind 7 people, or 3) use the Self-Check-Out machines. Now, I’m not one to get too worked up about anything, but this really bothered me. There were two open lanes, SEVEN closed checkout lanes, and I counted 5 employees just standing around cracking jokes with one another. To make matters worse there was a manager who was walking around urging folks in line to use the self checkout lines. Have you ever used the self checkout lines? The only time you can actually checkout all by yourself is when everything you are buying has a bar code. Any produce requires the assistance of an employee. And half the time, the employee doesn’t even notice you’re in need of assistance so you have to go ask for help. Not much of a “self” checkout. So which option did I choose? I reluctantly went to the self checkout line with my bananas and oranges and lo and behold, had to ask for assistance.
I bring this up because the day after my sub-par experience at Ralph’s I read the blog posted byThe Phoenix Real Estate Guy where he discussed his experience staying at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and how it reaffirmed his belief that customer service should always be priority number one. “The bellhop knew I was there for a speaking gig (because he asked. And listened). He asked me if I needed my suit pressed…..My wake-up calls were personal, not some automated voice system. Every time they asked if there was anything I needed. Every time.” What the Phoenix Real Estate Guy made clear, was that everyone, himself included, needs a good reminder every once in a while of the importance and value of rock-solid customer service. “I want every client, prospective client and even just the casual site visitor to go away thinking, “It can’t get any better than this”.” Well, I myself couldn’t have said it any better, so I thought rather than paraphrasing, I’d quote the man directly. It really is an important philosophy to have.
At a grocery store, the checkout is the most critical part of one’s shopping experience. A slow checkout ruins everything. At that particular Ralph’s, instead of using those self-checkout machines in a manner to ease the tension of long checkout lines, they were using them to pawn off the duties of the cashiers. I suppose one could look at this as less of a customer service issue and more of a managerial issue, but they truly go hand in hand. As a result of the manager’s decision to prioritize the self-checkout machines over getting people out the door faster by using a couple more cashiers, my shopping experience became a source of frustration and I am not heading back to that place any time. I mean, no one is leaving that place and thinking, “It can’t get any better than this” that’s for damn sure.
So go ahead and roll your eyes, I’m going to say it anyway. Customer service isn’t just about providing the client with a service or product. It is much more about going beyond what is expected so that that person wants to come back. I know, this is all crap we’ve heard a thousand times before…but sometimes it helps to see an example of really poor customer service and the effect it has on you. (In my case, I was just flat out pissed-off!) Then you can better evaluate how you are treating your clients and what you can do to improve.
By Andrew Brentan