I was at an office supply store the other day. It was the last day before a workshop so I was getting some last minute supplies and creative inspiration to finalise the design. Time was short and I was in a hurry.
Half way through my list I could not get enough of one item. The item I wanted was in stock but not where I could reach it. I needed assistance to access the supplies stored above – well out of reach from me and the ruler I tried as well. The only way to get access was by ladder.
Help me please
I politely asked the staff person at the checkout counter if she could organise someone to help. She paged a person to assist and told me to wait.
So I waited.
Five minutes later no help. So I went up again and asked if I could have some help. She said she would page someone again.
No one came.
So finally I calmly, but perhaps a bit more abruptly, reminded her that I would really like some help. So she paged someone again.
The person came, but she directed him to another customer who requested help after me.
By this stage I was laughing. I was in one of those situations where I had no control over the outcome and just had to let go. So I did. I went around the store, finished my list and went to the checkout counter. In good faith I tried one more time. This time I was told to go find someone myself.
Now some of you are already saying – walk out. I didn’t have time and needed the supplies. So I was trapped in a black hole of no customer service.
A twist of fate
So you think it was fine. Well it got more interesting. With my sense of urgency I decided to check out and get on with the rest of my day. Only half way through my sale the cash register froze.
So the checkout staff person asked for some help. Interestingly she had not one but two people at the counter within minutes to help her. One was the store manager. The solution – reboot the register – and wait patiently.
So I smiled, looked at the checkout person and said “I don’t suppose you would be able to get those pens now would you? Seems like we might be here for awhile.” Confused by the statement, the manager looked puzzled and then got the run down from the checkout person.
The leader sets the example
Next thing I notice the manager is down the aisle with the ladder. I think it was only ten more seconds before she was up to the top shelf asking me how many packs of pens I wanted. “Four thanks”. Done. No problem.
Wants and needs
Back to the counter and finished with my transaction I left with everything I needed but did not get what I wanted – a good customer experience. The company got what it wanted, the sale but lost what it needed – a happy customer.
In hindsight I am philosophical about it.
What stood out for me was the initiative of the manager and the lack of initiative on the part of all other staff in the store. The focus on the point of sale and not the decision to buy also intrigues me.
But what about me?
Then I thought some more. How did I contribute to this situation? What kind of customer was I being?
It seemed like I went in with an attitude challenge as well. I imposed on the store my own dilemma of last minute shopping for supplies that I could easily have picked up earlier. I wanted to shift a whole system to fit into my demands.
Also I really played the poor me customer role rather than actively pursue what I was after. Empathy usually comes really easy to me, however in this situation with focus on task I let my radar slip.
Only then did I notice that the check out person was on her own until cash register froze. To the best of her ability and with good intention she handled enquiries at the counter, people asking for help, checking out the queue of customers. She did not have one job, she had several with little back up.
What about you?
So consider your own experiences as the customer. What part do you play in getting what you want AND need? How do you work to make this happen? How do you get in the way?
I consider we are all in the field of customer service. We all have people we serve. So how are you at serving others? Do you need someone else to take the lead, climb the ladder for you? Or are you the one who climbs the ladder, gets the pens and makes sure the job is done? Are you doing it all and then not able to provide service?