Guess who is coming to visit?

3rd September, 2012

Shopping As I’m sitting here on a Monday morning waiting for a BT engineer to repair my broadband line at home (yet again) I’m starting to ponder my favourite pet subject: customer service.

On the positive note, the BT engineer was early this morning and seems to be competent and friendly and has gone now to find the fault somewhere between us and the exchange. Fingers crossed.

But let me tell you about my shopping trip on Friday evening to the local supermarket. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really enjoy the weekly shop and do appreciate everything which makes my chore a good and/or nice experience. However, more often than not the supermarket doesn’t do too well, as they seem to be more interested in upselling than making my shopping trip an enjoyable experience.

Walking through the store doors that evening, you could feel the tension in the air and there are middle and higher management (you know, the ones without brand uniform) walking rather briskly through the store. Interesting, you normally don’t see any of them on the shop floor. Are there some store improvements going on?

I continue with my shopping, staff rushing past me left, right and centre. I’m starting to feel I’m in the way (surely not intended?!?) I overhear a ‘manager’ say to his charge: ’Mate can you re-fill those shelves.’ And in a different aisle – staff member: ‘I will do it once I’ve finished here’ answered by manager: ‘Just make sure it is done.’  Is middle management not allowed to say ‘please’? And rather than standing there and giving orders, could he have helped?

Another walks briskly around pointing out empty boxes remnant from shelf filling, to a colleague manager – clearly concerned about the untidiness, but clearly unwilling to pick anything up themselves.

Another ‘manager’ was overheard saying ‘I haven’t worked so hard in a long time’.

Moving on, other staff were on alert:  ‘He’s coming today’ and ‘He’s nearly here, he just called’. I’m intrigued. Who are they expecting? What has pushed the whole store into such frenzy?

Another few panic stricken line managers later and half way through my shopping, the Chinese whispers amongst line management and staff becomes ‘he is here!’ and all line management disappears from the shop floor.

Trying to finish my shopping, I now feel like an intruder. And I really want to know who this very important person visiting the store could be. The Prime Minster? The Pope? So I ask whilst paying for my shopping. To my surprise it is neither the Prime Minister nor the Pope – it’s a gentleman from the Head Office.

Well I hope he was happy with his visit. Because what I’m hearing during my shopping trip is: as a customer you are not as important to us as a manager from head office. For him we make sure that the store is at its best, but for you, our customer, we don’t really care. Over sensitive? Maybe. But I have questions:

–       Why not make sure that your store is always in order (you know, for the customers), rather than having to panic because you have a visit or inspection from head office?

–       Why create such a panic trying to get your store in order such that customers feel in the way?

–       Why not treat your staff with respect and courtesy so that they will feel valued and in turn treat the customers the same way?

And on the other hand

–       Why announce an inspection? – Try some mystery shopping – shows you a much more honest picture.

–       And if you are genuinely interested in more than turnover and sales, why not ask customers directly what they think with an independent customer survey?

You might be surprised by the answer you get. I think I might try the other supermarket down the road next week. They might not come with a price guarantee but maybe they value their customers and staff a little bit more.

If you would like to implement a robust customer service programme why not come and talk to us? Or even come and visit us, announced or unannounced – I promise it won’t make a difference to us.