November 24, 2008

What is good customer service?

I hate supermarket shopping.

I try to get in and out as quickly as possible. If I spend more than about 15 minutes I there I start to 'go postal' (not really, but it feels like that). So yesterday was a bit of a challenge

Sunday's are interesting because the supermarket's here tend to open around 10m and close at 4pm. One therefore has 2 options: Hit the shops early before the crowds get there or hit the shops later when the crowds have gone. The problem with the latter option is that the food has usually gone as well. I therefore try to get there right on the stroke of ten, rush through, pay and get out of there.

But this time, the credit card payment machines were not working. Queues started to appear at the checkouts. People with cash were being allowed through first. Tempers started to flare. Then the manager had a brainwave: he brought out the old fashioned swipe units where you place a carbonised slip over the car and swipe a roller across to take an imprint. All the information is manually entered and the customer signs. Do you remember them?

The only problem was that there were only two of these machines serving all the open tills (approximately 12) AND the pharmacy as well. The poor girls with the swipe machines - who were barely old enough to remember when these were the standard - were running up and down the tills trying to deal with customer payments. The carbon on the slips had faded and wasn't copying correctly, the machine was jamming from time to time, and they hadn't totally worked out how to account for the entries in the tills. But apart from that everything worked well.

After about 20 minutes at the till I made it through with my produce stacked in my recyclable plastic bags. I headed towards the door only to be blocked by someone with a trolley and two children who were taking up the whole width of the exit aisle. As I started to look for a way around them I heard the sound of smashing glass next to me. I looked around and could see nothing made of glass that i could have broken. This worried me. Nobody else appeared to have heard it though. So I ignored it. As I started to move away I felt something under my foot and looked down to see a jar of mango chutney smashed on the floor.

My mango chutney. . . . That I had just bought.

Instantly a security guard was there (I was near the door after all). We positioned my trolley over the breakage to stop others from slipping on it and he went to search for the manager. 30 seconds later he came back and said 'Go get yourself another one' I wondered back through the store, picked up another jar, worked my way back to the exit and showed it to him. He had already called the cleaners and I went on my way.

So what did I learn from this?

1) Pack your groceries better to avoid having things fall out of your trolley
2) Despite the fact that I had bought and paid for the jar, the supermarket were happy to let me replace it free of charge, this taking the loss themselves
3) Young people need testing on old-fashioned swipe card technology!

Seriously though, did the supermarket have the need to do this? They could have just decided to clear up the mess without offering the replacement. I should - by rights - either have taken the loss myself or gone and purchased a second jar.

But then again maybe the supermarket was making up for the fact that I had just waited for 20 minutes to give them my money.

(Photo courtesy of nedrichards published under a Creative Commons Attribution, Share-alike licence)

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