Customer service is typically the benchmark of a business’ success. The level of service perceived by a customer usually has a direct correlation with the success or failure of the company. For this reason, every year companies invest millions of dollars in training their employees the key components and importance of reliable customer service. But….is it possible for there to be excessive customer service?
The question may sound absurd, but is it possible? Could excessive customer service have a negative impact? It may appear ironic, but the answer is “yes.”
There is a well-known grocery chain that stresses the importance of excellent, consistent customer service. One element of the training is that the employees continuously engage the customers so that they feel welcomed. In theory, this is a great concept. For example, as an employee is restocking the produce, they ask a patron walking by if they need help finding anything. It is a quick inquiry or offer of assistance that can potentially bring value to the customer.
But, what happens when this concept of engaging the customer is taken to an extreme? It is one thing to be offered assistance, but it is another to be forced to engage in conversations that customers may have no desire to participate. This type of discussion will occur every time you shop at this particular grocery store. As a person checks out, both the checker and bag boy/girl will initiate a conversation.
I must admit that initially, I felt a certain degree of guilt-assuming that I was merely anti-social. Then, I was at a social gathering, and this topic monopolized the conversation for almost an hour. It was amazing not only how uncomfortable so many people were but the number of them that no longer go to this particular store when just needing to pick up a few items.
It is customary for someone to ask you how your day is going, but when they begin inquiring about your plans for the day, or attempting to generate conversations based on items that you purchased, the discussion becomes forced and uncomfortable.
While it appeared that some customers just decided to shop elsewhere, it was humorous to hear some of the other techniques people used as a defense mechanism. One said that his first response was always that he was getting food for a funeral. This would typically eliminate the clerks’ desire for further dialogue. However, he did mention that once the bag boy asked him if it was a close family member who died – I guess his training stressed that he must converse with a customer at all times.
One person stated that he intentionally would purchase hemorrhoid cream or feminine hygiene products each time and will focus the conversation on these items. He appeared to take pleasure in the fact that he was going to make the employee equally as uncomfortable as himself during the discussion. Although I personally never proactively directed the conversations, I must admit that for a period I began shopping elsewhere when needing just a few items rather than be forced to converse with the staff. Although I did return to the grocery store for all of my shopping needs, truth be known……the only reason that began shopping back at the grocery store was that they installed a few self-checkout aisles – which meant the single conversation that I would be forced into would be with myself.
Customer service remains the key ingredient to every company’s success. However, it is essential always to remember that excellent customer service is based on the customer satisfaction and experience. The grocery store had all of the right intentions but failed miserably in their execution – which ultimately costs them customers and made them the topic of many unfavorable conversations.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.