Customer Service 101


December 19, 2014

How long should a line get at a retail store before management decides to open an additional register? As we go through the Holiday season, most of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping for presents/gifts, shopping for ourselves (in some cases), shopping for parties and dinners. We are busy and yet I continue to be amazed at the failures of management to TAKE THE MONEY that I want to give them.


Last Saturday, December 13, 12 days before Christmas I entered a Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy a gift card, a few minutes after 11 a.m. Again, this is 12 days before Christmas and one of the last two Saturdays before Christmas. I was appalled when I entered and saw approximately 8 customers in line at one register with 3 registers in the same area not staffed. I went to the other 2 exits and saw the same thing—long lines, one register open and other registers sitting with no staff. What did I do—I left empty handed, wondering why management did not want my money, did not want to take care of me and get me in and out quickly.


People in line are ready to give you money and yet I continue to go into stores where the lines are 8-10 deep with 1-2-3 cash registers/terminals not staffed. Why is this? Is it because computerization has taken over scheduling and replaced common sense? Is it because managers fail to understand the importance of taking money from those ready to give it to you? Is it because upper management has cut payrolls so tight that local managers hands are tied? Is it because managers fail to see how many potential customers walk out empty handed because the register lines are so long and there are several cash registers not being staffed?


I was in retail management for 36 years and my Stores, Districts, areas of responsibility won many customer service awards. Why, because I believed, preached, demanded that the customers are busy people and want to get in and out as fast as possible. Building upon that belief was the fact that if customers get in and out quickly they will recognize this and come back again, and again. Another factor is that if they get in and out quickly, they will free precious parking spaces for others to shop.


One of the greatest compliments I ever received was during the Holiday season, when one of my part time employees who worked for the State Government, came in for her evening shift and told me several of her colleagues shopped during their lunch period that day, got what they wanted, at the prices they wanted, and were able to make it back to work on time. Evidently, this was virtually impossible in previous years—prior to me taking over the store. Do you think the shoppers conveyed their shopping experience to others at work, at home—you bet they did!


Of course, this attention to getting customers in and out quickly does not just apply to the Holidays. One year, a company that I worked with had 6 stores with Summer Grand Openings on the same Saturday. The Senior Vice President of Operations flew from town to town to see the business traffic and how the stores were handling the traffic. One of his sons traveled with him and communicated to his Dad that the store in my District was running much smoother than the other stores they had visited that day. His answer was that my store was “staffed” to handle traffic and able to get customers through the registers. By the way, that store set a Summer Grand Opening Day record for sales that day for that company.


I had a rule that if one customer was being rung up and one is in line, the next register needed to be staffed as soon as a third person approached the register. Did we always succeed, no, but we were pretty good at it, and customers could see our concern for getting them in and out. We kept our registers banked and ready to handle traffic and all employees knew the expectation of getting the customers in and out as quickly as possible and what it meant to more sales, more profits, and more hours for them as payrolls would increase with sales increases.


Next time you wait in a line, look around and see what efforts are being made to TAKE YOUR MONEY so they can get paid, can get more hours and get you in and out as fast as possible. Look at how many cash registers sit vacant. Ask yourself the question—WHY and think of how you would handle it if it were your store.