Thursday, April 4, 2013

Errand woes

Sometimes customer service doesn't hit the nail quite on the head. Or at least not at the right angle or with the desired amount of force.

When I go to my bank, which will remain here unnamed, I usually get frustrated. In fact, most of the time I kind of hate going there. It is a chore to get over with.

One of the last times I was there the line was short and the teller said she liked my name.

If you want to get on my good side, compliment my name. Works like a charm.

But most of the time, I feel my bank has good intentions but lacks the best delivery.

Let's start with the bullet proof glass between the tellers and the customers. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that they take the glass down. The tellers' safety is so much more important than my princess desires for a perfectly comfortable bank experience. Seriously, they should keep the glass up.

Nonetheless, it makes me feel uneasy.

My bank also doesn't have drive-thru lanes, other than for ATMs. Now, I don't know that I've seen many, or any, banks with drive-thru lanes since moving to California, so this could be a regional, or safety, thing.

But in the Midwest, we have these drive-thru lanes at banks, and California: they are great. Consider this my suggestion for the suggestion box. But again, if this is a decision made for safety issues, then you may leave drive-thru lanes absent from future blueprint plans.

My main qualm with my bank lies in its over-the-top enthusiasm, which thus lacks authenticity. On one visit there, the teller who assisted me said that it was her goal to offer me excellent customer service and asked if she had been successful.

Statements like that should be reserved for telephone surveys, and they should be administered by robots. When it is a human standing in front of me, no. Just, no.

When you walk in the door to my bank, an employee standing near the line immediately greets you. This is a nice touch, but honestly the lines are so slow most of the time that I'd rather have that person jump behind the counter and open another teller window.

Another time a teller was so focused on his script that he asked me twice how my day was going. I like to reserve that kind of conversational fumbling for first dates, thank you very much. There is no reason employees should feel so much pressure to please in such a formulaic way that natural conversational abilities are taken from them.

Others might disagree with me on this, but I tend to think that I am extra attuned to reading people's emotions--their nervousness, discomfort, calm, etc. So maybe I am extra sensitive to this bank's practice, but to me it seems glaringly obvious. And honestly, I think if they reworked their practice, it would increase customer satisfaction. Be more genuine and less scripted, and I bet your customers will feel the difference.

Case #2 of customer service missing the mark occurred this morning.

The grocery store where I usually shop tends to go in the opposite direction of my bank, aiming for expediency over customers' desires. Granted, I will say that several of the cashiers are very friendly, and genuine. This I appreciate a lot. And one of them asked me if I was a dancer, and I swooned with delight at that.

However, where this store misses the mark is in its pushiness to usher customers to the self-checkout lane.

People. There is a reason I am not a big fan of Red Box. And smartphones. And texting. And automated everything. Or having someone tell you, when you call a business with a question, to report to their website for the information you're looking for...THAT is one of my biggest pet peeves in modern society.

I like human contact. Not all the time, obviously. I live alone for a reason, and evenings are generally my time, when I hang out with embroidery thread and chick flicks instead of actual in-the-flesh human beings.

But, generally speaking, when I go to the grocery store, I don't mind spending five minutes of my life chatting with Roger or Susie while my items are whisked across the barcode scanner. Especially when they ask me if I'm a dancer. I'll go through the line five extra times for those kinds of comments.

Today I was at the grocery store with a box of granola bars and some bananas. I was waiting for a human-operated checkout line, when I was--big surprise--whisked over to the self checkout.

This bothered me a little bit, but what really got me was the employee's insistence on teaching me every step of the self checkout process.

True, when I caught glimpse of my reflection in my cotton mini skirt and tennis shoes on my way out the door this morning, I said out loud to myself, "I look like I'm going to school. Elementary school." And if memory serves, a new friend guessed me to be around 24-years-old (about 4 years junior of my actual age) just this past weekend.

But. I don't think I look so young that I can't figure out how to use a self checkout. I did have one question (how to ring in fruit), but other than that I was good. Yet I received instruction on how to press every button, where to put my items after scanning, "Don't forget your bananas." The whole interaction was just rushed and irritating.

Maybe the employees are used to seeing 20-somethings with just a few items become frustrated at parents with small children and whole cartloads ahead of them. Intentions here are good, I'm sure. But I think I've actually told employees before that I am fine to wait for a regular line, when they ask me to use the self checkout. Because I am.

My interaction today was around 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning. We're not talking rush hour, folks. So calm down. Let me wait for my human cashier if I so please. And keep track of how many times you've asked me how my day is going. Unless we're on a first date, in which case you get a pass.

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