I expect slow and disinterested service when I deal with the public service. It is unfortunately part and parcel of our current society and culture. When I go to a store, however, I expect a little more from the people I interact with there. I don’t expect miracles, mind you, just for cashiers to look at me as if they were vaguely interested in me and what I am doing there as well as in being good representatives of their employer. Sadly this is rare.
I was in Pick ‘n Pay Norwood this morning around 10:40 or so. I went there to buy some crates for our move and the queues were pretty long. Apparently the shop is being reduced in size and a new shopping mall is going to be built in that space so while I don’t see evidence of a disruption, I do understand the long queues. What really irked me is that despite the long queues, the cashiers behaved as if they were the only people in the store. They exhibited no interest in processing all of those sales faster to cut the queues or even indicating to customers waiting in the queues that they were free and could ring up their goods (the way the basket queue works is that when you reach the tills you can’t see the tills further away from you and the majority of the cashiers at those tills). They sat there, looked at some paperwork and eventually flipped the switch that flashed their till number on an LED screen in front of the customers.
The clincher for me was that when I arrived at the till the cashier looked at me like I wasn’t even there. She looked as bored as she could possibly be and her packer looked even less interested in me and my goods. Once again, I’ll point out that I wasn’t expecting miracles (say, a greeting or an indication that her brain realised that another human being was in front of her), just something other than a less than blank stare (yes, it is possible to have a less than blank stare). Unfortunately this was not to be. So I took my crates and left the store, not in the least bit satisfied with my experience of that store. To add to this, there was no indication that management had taken notice of the length of the queues and had taken any steps to alleviate or even explain the reasons for the unusual queues to customers. A sign reading “Sorry about the long queues, we are renovating/building and the result is the long queue you are stuck in!” would be fine with me. Instead, management just seemed to be as disinterested as their staff. This is unusual for that store’s management which usually seems to be more on the ball but this didn’t change my perception or my experience. The only reason I go to that store is because they have a few items I can’t get anywhere else at that price but price is becoming less relevant to me and I am now more inclined go up the road and receive far better service. So that is one customer who is shopping less at that store. How many other customers won’t shop there anymore?
Clive Simpkins posted about his dissatisfaction with Woolworths in Hyde Park a little while ago. I had a very different experience this morning. I went to the Woolworths in Norwood after my Pick ‘n Pay experience and they were fantastic. I have often found that the staff there are not just aware of my existence but they are pretty friendly and helpful too. Now I may pay a little more at Woolworths for the things I buy there but that is ok with me. I know that when I go there I am acknowledged and appreciated. That makes a difference to me and it reflects far better on Woolworths than Pick ‘n Pay staff behaviour. It also means that if a Woolworths store isn’t quite up to scratch, I’ll be more accommodating because I remember how I am treated at other branches. If other people have similar experiences to mine then what does that say about the value of basic levels of customer service? Little things make a big difference and if enough people leave you because of the little things you do or don’t do to piss them off, don’t expect to thrive anytime soon.
On the way out of Pick ‘n Pay I heard on the news that Pick ‘n Pay staff are on a “go slow”. I found that really funny because the behaviour I described above is typical of Pick ‘n Pay staff. They are perceptually on a “go slow”. Industrial action just formalises it.