Are You Really Ready To Serve?
One night last week I had to stop into our local supermarket chain to pick up a few items. It was about 30 minutes before closing and I needed to grab a few items before the end of the day.
When I got to the entrance, which was inside a mall, I was greeted by a row of shopping carts blocking the entrance. I then realized that towards the end of the day the store blocks off the entrance and channels all traffic through the exit.
While grabbing the few items I needed, you could see the staff scurrying to finish their tasks for the day. Very little customer interaction. They seemed to be on a mission to close the store.
When I checked out, the manager grabbed my cart and asked – very hurriedly – if I needed it or if he could take it. Not wanting to inconvenience him, I told him he could take it away.
During the whole experience, I felt like an unwanted guest. Have you ever had an experience where you felt more of a bother than a customer? Here are some real examples of managers (leaders) making customers feel less than welcome:
- Restaurant with chairs all on tables last 1-2 hours
- Managers locking the doors on customers as they approach the store saying “We’re closed”
- Staff not engaging customers as it might prolong the interaction and take a few more minutes to leave for the day
- One register open, one cashier rushing to ring up and bag, all other staff being task-focused instead of customer-focused
- Rushing customers to make a purchasing decision whether at a retail locale or a car dealership
- Any interaction saying “Sorry, you’ll have to come back tomorrow”
- Cleaning up around guests, making them feel like they are in the way of closing
Leaders, particularly those in service sectors but all leaders nonetheless, need to be aware of how they communicate their operations readiness to service customers. One mantra that I’ve heard that is worth noting is:
“The last guest should get the same level of quality service as the first guest”
I understand the need for the supermarket to manage security, labor matrices, and overtime. But if a customer feels unwelcome, they will take their business elsewhere. Business dollars that will pay for the end of day labor.
One restaurant chain I worked for I was an area manager training the new unit manager to run the store. We were in a strip mall across from a movie theater. During closing times, if the movies let out just before, we would have a line out the door. I informed the staff that we would “soft close” – not close until the last customer was served – even if it meant 45 minutes beyond our normal close time.
We generated some great revenues during this time, and because of our end of day staffing our labors costs, which usually go up during the last couple of hours, actually went down. By more than justifying the labor we also created an atmosphere that our customers could pop in late at night and still have a great meal experience.
We made each guest feel welcome.
Leaders, what are you doing to accommodate and serve your guests at the end of the day? What example are you setting for your staff? What buzzkill are you creating that takes away from your brand?
Remember, that last guest doesn’t get a discount for lesser service at the end of the day.