“Thank You” Is Printed on the Receipt

By on January 17, 2014
Thank You Is Printed on the Receipt

A couple of months ago, as I was checking out at a large drug store in my neighborhood I was, once again, treated like a non-entity by the sales associate. You know. No eye contact. No “thank you.” No nothing. I’m not sure what happened but I just couldn’t take a pass on this opportunity to find out why I, a customer – the person paying this sales associate’s salary – was being treated this way. I asked her, “Don’t any of you folks say ‘Thank you’ anymore?” She replied with very obvious annoyance, “It’s printed on the receipt.”

For some reason, this completely out-of-left-field comment, and, for that matter, this demonstration of amazing candor, made me think about customer service training I did some years ago, during which we discussed situations just like this one, situations in which the customer is treated like a non-entity. As I recall, I launched the training with a story like this one.

“Remember me? I’m the person who goes into a restaurant, sits down and patiently waits while the waitresses do everything but take my order. I’m the person who goes into a hardware store and stands quietly while the sales clerks finish their chit-chat. You might say I’m a good guy. But do you know what else I am? I’m the person who never comes back and it amuses me to see you spending thousands of dollars every year to get me back into your store when I was there in the first place and all you had to do to keep me was give me a little service, show me a little courtesy.”

And I thought about how incredibly obvious bad customer service is … and how incredibly obvious great customer service is. I mean, really, “It’s printed on the receipt”? C’mon, this kind of a slight can’t be intentional, can it? It had to have come from someone whose mind was on auto pilot, didn’t it? It had to have come from someone who was almost totally disengaged from their work, a person for whom this work at this moment had virtually no meaning, a person for whom this work at this moment was in no way connected to anything he valued, to anything he thought was important. It was work that was far on the periphery of his life. And that’s where work is for a large percentage of the millions of individuals who are interacting with customers on retail sales floors and, as a result, effectively killing sales.

The challenge is clear: How do we move the experience of work from being on the periphery of an individual’s thinking to being in the core.

Lean thinking and managing processes can make this happen. Lean thinking drives employee engagement like no other performance improvement intervention.

And the payback of driving dramatically higher levels of employee engagement is high. Studies have shown that 96% of unhappy customers never complain about rude or discourteous service, but 90% will not visit or buy from that place again. How many of your customers are silent but unhappy with the treatment they’ve received? What’s the cost of losing the business of 90% of these customers?

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Dolores, and I were in a large retail clothing company. Dolores asked a sales associate, “Could you help me in the shoe department or help me find someone who can help me?” He replied, “Beats me, I don’t know where they are” as he sauntered off. More recently, we were going through checkout at a local supermarket. I asked the person checking us out, “How’s it going?” She replied, “I’m going to get as far away from here as I can get.” If a person tried to script sales-killing comments, it’d be tough to beat these two. Are your sales associates saying things like this to your customers?

How’s this kind of a response to a customer possible? What kind of thinking or lack of thinking makes it possible?

I contrasted this experience with one I had years ago when I was Director of Professional Development at a large Midwestern university. We were marketing a series of seminars nationwide and I recalled calling a hotel in Little Rock and asking a person in their sales office how many people had registered for our seminar. She replied, “Looks like we have 18 registrations for your program.” I responded, “Thanks have a good day.” She came back, quickly, “You know, your program really looks good. I put a brochure on the front desk and have told some of the business groups that meet here about it.” I said, “I really appreciate your help.” She responded, “Glad to do it. Wonder if you could send me 25 or so brochures. I’ll mail them to people I know in Little Rock who might be interested in your program.” Wow! What a totally customer-focused comment made by an employee who was fully engaged in the work of the moment.

I’d like to talk with you about employee engagement resources we have that can ensure that your employees are fully engaged in the work of the moment. Call me, George Friesen, at 314-303-0612 and let’s talk.

About George Friesen

George Friesen serves as Business Practice Leader - Lean Manufacturing for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He has led the College's Lean business practice area since 2000. Prior to joining the College, George worked for Maritz Performance Improvement Company. Over the past 35 years, he has served a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies, specializing during the past eleven years in Lean Manufacturing, focusing especially on the 5S System, Lean leadership and thinking processes, Value Stream Mapping, and Lean team building. George is a graduate of Washington University (AB), Webster University (MA), and United States Air Force Flight Training.

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