Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Sorry to have kept you waiting"

I haven't been to the supermarket lately, or rather, when I have, I've used the self check-out. But today I used a normal checkout. There was a short queue, it was busy. And as each person reached the cashier, she said "sorry to have kept you waiting". As she had doubtless been told to do.


If you wish to imbue the grocery shopping experience with something approaching courtesy and grace, do not inform your members of staff to robotically repeat the same phrases, unless you wish to create - and I suggest you note this down - the impression that the cashier hates each and every customer. Nothing says "I'm not sorry" better than the exact circumstances you have created.

The self-checkout is a kind of robot. It generally works well. But that doesn't mean you should extend the brand values of this worthy automaton to your entire workforce, particularly - and I suggest you also note this down - the customer-facing part of your operation. Believe it or not, human beings can tell when human beings are behaving inauthentically.

I have finished now.


Nick said...

I used to work at Target and they asked us to approach everyone and ask them, "Can I help you find something?" It had to be those exact words. You rewarded if a manager caught you saying them. I hated that.

Elly said...

Yes! John, I agree with you completely, it drives me nuts, and I don't even shop that much. Same goes for "Is there anything else I can help you with today?" as you're leaving (normally a bank). No, as I've already said thank you, goodbye and am turning to leave. No, or I would have asked. Ugh!

Chelle Lynn said...

Just to play devil's advocate, I work as a customer service representative in a public library. They never make us say anything to the patrons, we are just instructed to be helpful. However, I do find myself repeating the same phrases over and over.

"Thank you for waiting."
"Have a good weekend."
"You have a small fine on your account."

Sometimes you just find a phrase that works well and stick to it.

That being said, you can always kind of tell when service drones are reading from a script- it is unnatural and off-putting. Especially when they are trying to sell you something.

"Would you like to save 10% with your rewards card today?"

Kat R said...

When I worked at Waldenbooks a few years ago we had a few things we were required to say (like pushing the candy up at the register or trying to force people to sign up for rewards cards) and I always hated having to do it because I hate having it done to me.

It's funny how society does that kind of thing

Lily Grace said...

without wanting to bore you, hi, I work in a supermarket. We have to say these things to meet our Customer service measure( a mystery shopper who comes and grades us twice a month) If they queue for more than 60 seconds, we lose 10% of our mark, If we apologise its only 5%, so you see, it is us striving for excellent customer service that makes us so bad at it!

John A said...

Lily, it's the overlords I blame, you are blameless.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Worse things. I approached a clerk at CVS (nee Longs Drugs) who was gabbing on her cellphone in the middle of the store, and stood by patiently waiting for her to finish so I could ask a question. She shot me a dirty look and turned her back to me, as if I were listening in on her private conversation. EXCUSE ME, YER F***IN' HIGHNESS.

Note to CVS: That is why Walgreens gets my money from now on.

Unknown said...

Ha ha, there's your answer, John! If the corporate overlords don't micromanage their employees' every mannerism, they lose untold billions to Walgreens, because people are generally kinda prissy and adolescent. If you want genuinely civil behavior, you'll have to move to the Third World.

K said...

It's sad that they're trying to replace cashiers with machines, then trying to turn cashiers into machines.

Bear in mind though, if you have an actual conversation with the poor servatron chained to the till, they tend not to use their set phrases (but still look like customer service experts) and you both leave happy. Except they cant leave. Ever.