Do You Mean It When You Ask?

Windup robot

My wife and I were talking the other evening about an interesting customer service idiosyncrasy we’ve both noticed at our local grocery store.  When we are finished shopping and we go to checkout, regardless of which cashier is helping us, they universally begin with the question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”   Happens every time without fail.  It’s a great thought, however we have realized that these employees are simply reciting a question they were ordered to ask.  There is no genuine feeling behind it, it’s simply something they’ve been told to do, much as a computer that has been programmed to auto-respond.

We’ve even had some fun with this.  After the question and contrary I believe to most responses, I answer, “No.”  At least half the time, the cashier proceeds as if nothing had happened.  The other times I get this incredulous look and the witty riposte of , “What, oh, well, uh, I, don’t, uh, well, uh, hmmm.”  (Does not compute!)

I truly believe that the intent behind this effort is to provide excellent customer service, to show the caring side of the grocery store, and to make me feel welcomed.  Unfortunately, when it is not a genuine concern, and in this case it is apparent, then it fails in its intention.

Do you have customer service contact employees that are just going through the motions, that are just reciting lines out of a manual like an automaton?  Is the culture of your company such that this type of behavior is rewarded?  If so then your company’s brand is also reflecting this lack of authenticity, a lack of genuine caring for your customer.  It may take time, but it will affect your ability to grow and achieve your sales goals.

In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin-Are You Indispensable? he speaks of company cultures that encourage and reward behavior that simulates an assembly line, where employees are expected to do exactly as the manual dictates and not to have any original thought.  The problem, as he states, is that once this behavior is engrained, it is difficult to break away from.  Just as employees who act as robots are inexpensive and easy to replace, so your customers will also find other sources for what you do or sell.

So, do you mean it when you ask?

I would love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource

3 thoughts on “Do You Mean It When You Ask?”

  1. Interesting article.. Just the other day I was in a CVS store looking for some Zinc Oxide. You know the white stuff that life guards used to put on their nose to keep it from peeling from sunburn. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it. The irony of this was that CVS is a “pharmacy”.. but yet they had one eisle of medical products, the rest was greeting cards, school supplies, make-up, snacks, wine, toys, milk, ice cream, hair coloring, candles, electronics, “as seen on TV”, magazines, books, umbrellas, tee shirts, even cheap jewelry.

    This so called pharmacy looked alot more like a scaled down version of Walmart than a pharmacy. Anyway I get to the register to pay for some batteries and the clerk asked the mandated “did you find everythink ok?” To which I replied, “no I didn’t”. Surprised she looked at me and said, “well what were you looking for?” to which I replied “a sales clerk”. Now this really threw her off because the only clerks where at the register, the photo prining station, and behind the counter at the pharmacy.

    She then repies with “is there anything I can help you find?” I told her what I was looking for and she had no clue what it was. I left without it. Now the clerk really was trying to be helpful, but instead of asking if YOU found everything ok, maybe they should just rephrase it to something like “did WE have everything you needed?”

    Where exactly has service gone? Seems like all stores are self serve now. I can’t imagine that all that periferal stuff is enought to cover the overhead of the entire buidling so I’m thinking that they make enough on prescriptions to cover the overhead and the rest is just there as impulse items and they really don’t have an interest in helping you find something. They just need someone to take your money.

  2. How is it that just anybody can write a blog and get as popular as this? Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive –more like youve painted a pretty picture over an issue that you know nothing about! I dont want to sound mean, here. But do you really think that you can get away with adding some pretty pictures and not really say anything?

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