+Scott Watson

Thursday, 9 December 2010

From Service to Satisfaction - What a Journey

The Christmas shopping madness has started. The spirit of goodwill doesn't appear to have kicked into place yet - at least it hadn't in the hectic Leeds city centre last Saturday.

The problem? Lots of people eager, perhaps a little too eager, to get their gift shopping completed before the streets and shops got too busy. Well, we're not really bothered about the streets being too busy are we? That we can handle. But queues? Oh no, not again. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. only to be served by a store assistant who doesn't smile (because they've seen the length of the queue they HAVE TO serve) and so in their own mind are planning just how stressful their day will be. Isn't it strange how some people plan their stress...in advance? Talk about an unproductive mindset that could ultimately ruin your day, week (or even life).

Thank you for your patience

I visited a beauty store in Leeds last Saturday to buy a few gifts for my wife. And yes, I'm rather good at forward-planning so set off from home at 9am in an effort to avoid the worst of the expected stampede of people who can sometimes forget their manners when 'enjoying' the Christmas shopping experience. And, it was this forward-planning and foresight that allowed me to witness a simply fantastic demonstration of turning a problem into a solution - a very creative solution too. Here's what happened.

Having been served by a very helpful female staff member at the store, I'd selected my purchases and walked to join the queue of around 20 shoppers who were waiting to be called to pay for their purchases. And that's where the problems started.

The two staff members behind the cash desk were fumbling around with a cash register, paying no attention to the queuing customers and talking to each other in shallow whispers. A full 60 seconds later, there was no communication forthcoming from behind the cash desk, or from anywhere else for that matter. And wouldn't you just know it. One of the employees behind the cash desk wore a badge stating 'MANAGER. But clearly, this 'MANAGER' was not 'managing' very well at all. She was so involved in the problem that she forgot that the people in the queue were not obligated to wait AND actually wanted to give her their hard-earned cash. And that ultimately means, the people who keep her, and her employees in jobs were not allowed to purchase their items, at least not for now.

As some members of the growing queue began to share their frustrations with each other, others chose to return their items to the shelves and simply leave the store. After all, these people are actually in the store and in the queue for the cash till BECAUSE THEY WANT TO GIVE THEIR MONEY TO THE STORE! It's quite a simple concept that some retailers should concentrate on. Accept money from those individuals who wish to give it to you.

A full 2 minutes following my noticing the initial fumbling behind the cash desk, still no communication from the Manager about what was happening, why it was happening or, how she would ensure that the now even longer queue of shoppers would be cared for. Now, I'm a patient guy and I am more understanding than many people that problems can arise. And that's ok with me. What I do appreciate knowing is how the problem (which is affecting my shopping experience) is to be resolved. I'm from the 'Just tell me and I'll understand' tribe of shoppers.

Saved by an Angel

With more staff gathering round the cash desk,the manager becoming even more frustrated and more would-be customers leaving the store - without spending any money, it became apparent that one of the cash tills was not operational. Yes, there's only so many times you can say 'Re-Boot' before even the queuing customers want to shout out 'Stop RE-BOOTING...Even we know it's not working'.

Now for the flip. And a fantastic flip at that. In a moment of pure inspiration (or perhaps, desperation), the young lady who had served me 5 minutes earlier takes a stand. Here she goes in a warm, genuine and very apologetic voice. And remember, at this point, the manager is still not speaking to customers in any way and not aware that a public demonstration of brilliance is about to take place - right in front of her.

'Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see the cash till isn't working.....and we continue to re-boot...even though that isn't working.' At this point, the shoppers focus is drawn to the solitary figure of a smiling store assistant attempting to help, and without her Managers' permission or knowledge.

At this point, the Manager, and crowd of followers look up and towards their renegade colleague. How could she break rank and dare to think for herself? She continued 'One of our two cash tills isn't working, BUT, the other one is and we can now serve you on this one.' Fantastic eh? Even the manager was so involved in the problem which was the faulty cash till that her awareness wasn't drawn to the fact that their other cash till was completely operational and waiting to start chomping cash and visa cards. Remember, would-be buyers are still leaving the queue and exiting the store without making their purchase/s.

And on she goes, 'Now, I just want to let you know that I can't sing...and I can't dance very well...' drawing smiles and giggles from her audience,...now for the dramatic pause and a bundle of shoppers wondering where this was leading.... 'BUT I AM THE BEST gift wrapper you'll meet in Leeds today, so please bear with us and we'll do our best to take good care of you

No applause from her audience, but she attracted lots of smiles, a few 'Thank You's and an abundance of goodwill. As her reactive colleagues got their brains in to gear, she politely asked the next in line how they would like their gifts wrapped - in a box? in a bag? Would you like a bow too? Even grumpy children got a treat as, after seeking parents permission, she asked if they would like a sweetie. All of these questions and a few polite and timely offers helped her to flip a problem with 'Customer Service' in to an experience of 'Customer Satisfaction', at least satisfaction with her contribution.

This is a true story about an experience I had last Saturday. Now for some questions for you about your organisation:

- Do you focus on delivering 'Customer Service' or 'Customer Satisfaction'? And do you actually understand just how your bottom-line financial performance is adversely impacted by your employees missing opportunities to satisfy would-be and actual customers?

- Do you train your employees, not just customer service staff, but, sales people, even your IT team to focus on delivering customer satisfaction? If not, you're very likely to be wasting your company money. Just because you don't see it go missing, doesn't mean it's not being wasted.

- How do you actually know when a customer of yours is genuinely 'satisfied' with your product or service? And beyond that, how do you know when they are genuinely 'satisfied' or 'dis-satified' with the quality of service/dis-service you delivered?

- Excellent customer satisfaction doesn't just save you money (fewer complaints, more efficient communication, right-first-time), it can actually make your company money too.

In short, forget about delivering excellent customer service. It's a worn out statement that whilst well-meaning, has become an empty platitude thrown around by some corporate bosses and many motivational (or as i term many of them 'Irritational') speakers that it's become virtually worthless. Focus on satisfaction and your financial performance could be boosted beyond your highest expectations.

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