Human Being or Human Doing? EQ and Customer Service

I find myself at the grocery store almost every day, in the summer months, when impromptu visitors arrive, the weather is awesome and the time feels right to sit on the patio and enjoy great company, food and drink.

There I was, again this week, at my local food purveyor, having collected my BBQ foodstuffs, surveying the checkout lines in order to find the “fastest way out of Dodge”. Apparently everyone had the same idea, for the lines were deep and not moving that quickly.  A perfect time to step back, breathe and observe what’s happening around me.  In my younger days, I’d have just gotten upset about the situation. I would have huffed and puffed, rolled my eyes, tapped my feet and demonstrated a general level of frustration indicating that I wasn’t at all pleased with the situation.  Thank goodness I have evolved in my EI competencies a little since those days.  So – having time on my hands to observe the goings on in the store, here’s what I observed in Lane 7.

The customer service gal, let’s call her Cathy Clerk, executes the checklist of “to do’s” required for her position.  She greets each customer, asks for the loyalty and points cards, runs the items through the checkout efficiently, bags the items with care to not crush the eggs, asks if the customer is aware of their fuel discount and bids them, “have a good day.”

Trouble is, she never once looks the customer in the eye, never once smiles, never once changes the tone of her voice, never once just stops to see or hear the customer in front of her or even ask a question.  She demonstrates a complete lack of genuine interest in or  connection with the person on the other side of her till.  She is a perfect ‘human robot.’ While she is completely efficient in doing what she is supposed to do she is not effective in delivering a great service experience.  It’s an empty ‘transaction interchange’, devoid of any warmth, caring, authenticity or humanness.

You could call it a non-experience and one I am sure, is replicated many thousands of times a day in customer service interactions across the country. If I wanted fast and efficient, non-engagement of any kind with a human – I would have chosen the no conversation, no connection, do it yourself check-out machine (or drive through banking, online banking, self pumping gas – we have a propensity for DIY stuff these days) seemingly saving ourselves time, while sacrificing any semblance of human connection…and so my turn approaches at the check-out stand.  I am curious about whether or not the “repertoire” will be different for me.

Alas, I receive the exact same speech delivered in the exact same way.  Cathy Clerk’s inability to see how she operates with anyone who happens through her lane has a net negative impact to the customer service experience.  It’s a missed opportunity to really drive customer loyalty.  If there were other choices of grocery stores in my area, I’d be inclined to try my luck there.  So, next time in the store, I will be careful to seek out a real ‘human being’, not a ‘human doing’, in my checkout lane.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for this, Catherine, I’m amazed at the way stores don’t seem to think about the ‘human connection’ aspect of customer service. Great blog – look forward to the next one ;-)

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