Customer Management Is Not Customer Service

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.

Busy grocery checkoutI 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

12 thoughts on “Customer Management Is Not Customer Service”

  1. I used to be involved in web development and in that industry customer service was a real strange thing as giving good customer service could lead to either:

    a – being abused by clients who will try and get you to do free work
    b – the clients will respect your professionalism and will continue to use you and sing your praises

    David’s last blog post..Free Fluid WordPress Themes and CSS Templates

  2. Greg @ San Diego Locksmith

    It’s all about customer service! In my business I can’t allow customers to wait because they have to many options available to them and they will just call the next guy. In the grocery store you can imagine that someone with a cart full of grocery’s wont want to go start over in another store. They may choose to not come back but sometimes you have to because you don’t have other options.

    It’s so frustrating because in so many different industry’s customer service has just been thrown out the window all together!!! 🙁

  3. Meg Zoller-Houston Realtor

    I also enjoyed the post from Jay; he hit the issue on the head exactly! Thanks for recaping for everyone: we are in the customer service industry and it should be our goal to have every client, site visitor and casual blog reader excited to come back for more.

    Meg Zoller-Houston Realtor’s last blog post..Houston Real Estate Reaps Benefits of Statewide Population Growth

  4. I am actually a big fan of the self checkout stands when I’m in a hurry and I don’t have anything too difficult to scan. But I do think it does take away from the traditional idea of going to your neighborhood grocer. I absolutely agree that there should be more to Customer “Service” than getting them out as soon as possible.

  5. Customer service is without a doubt priority #1. They are already getting bad publicity from your post and would probably lose my business as well in a very competitive industry. Not a smart decision at all.

  6. I love it. Great example of customer service. It seems like in todays world everyone is about the quick fix and instant gratification. I guess I’m one of the few remaining people believe that hard work, ethics, and customer service actually equal better results and money money in the long run. Sure, in the real estate business, great customer service take more time but I think you actually earn much more with it. I have noticed I get a LOT more referrals that other agents in my office due to the customer service I provide. Long term thinker are still where it’s at!!!

  7. Customer service is always so very important and especially in today’s economic situation. People have enough problems without receiving bad service when they really need help. People who are good at customer service are true, caring individuals and if one does not possess those characteristics, one needs to get another type of job. I am always amazed at how managers choose to employ some of the people they have in customer service.

  8. Customer service isn’t just about serving or catering to the needs of the customer when they require but it also about building an important long term relation with your customers & take care of their requirements as well. Customer management has a very important role to play in the Real Estate business to keep your customers intact & also drive new customers towards your business.

    Cheers,Harry,Panama property

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