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Speedy ‘n’ Smooth (Conclusion)

‘Gold Standard’ for counter help is: Be fast, be comfortable

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Counter helps speed is essential.

What is the truly annoying aspect of your service?

What drives a customer crazy?

What makes customers walk out of your shop with a bad taste in their mouth?.... Slow counter staff.

Let me repeat:




With a slow counter staffer, most customers think, Why is this girl so slow? Doesn’t she know what she’s doing? Was she just hired yesterday? Doesn’t she realize that I have a lot of things to do? What’s wrong with that girl? Doesn’t she know that I’m a busy person?

Each encounter should be a seamless event. Eyes should be focused on the job at hand. Arm movements should be minimum. There can be no munching on an apple or chewing a cookie. There can be no looking away from the transaction. Hands must move fast.

Occasional eye contact is necessary. Perhaps the best way to say it is that a counter person should have the concentration of a person facing the firing squad.

That doesn’t mean a counter staffer can’t talk or even kid around. If the customer wants to engage in conversation, he or she can do so. But perhaps it is better to finish the transaction, and then the banter can take place.

This “getting business done first” also reduces that chance that an error is made. It also helps that the counter staffer gains time to gauge the customer’s mood.


After the transaction is completed is the time to chat.

This might mean that you will have to light a fire underneath some counter staffers. Many work at their own pace and that isn’t sufficient. Many have no sense of being slow.

Many don’t realize that they are annoying customers with their relaxed movements. Many don’t even grasp the notion that time is important and that dawdling is bad.

Certainly, all new hires must be indoctrinated to the gospel of speed. Because they are not familiar with the procedures, they will tend to be slow.

When something unusual occurs (a customer complains about a stain that hasn’t been removed), they will not know how to respond.

This means that they must be told that speedy encounters are the No. 1 priority. You must also give staffers enough training so that they can handle common contingencies.

To get your crew of counter staffers up to snuff, you must observe them in their customer dealings.

Watch to see if they are focused. Do they move fast enough? Perhaps you might establish time standards for different operations.

If your counter staffer is supposed to perform a pickup transaction in a minute and a half, see that they comply by using a stopwatch to time them. If they don’t comply, have them do the task again and again until they pass grade. Be a speed proselytizer.

Frankly, anyone can be taught to work faster. Some individuals might have a predisposition to working slowly, but if the slowness is pointed out and worked on, those people can greatly increase their speed.

Indeed, half the battle is pointing out that a counter staffer is slow and that this is annoying to customers.

At the same time, upping the speed doesn’t mean that the counter staffer is robotic, automaton-like, frenzied. This behavior will scare the customer away.

One can be fast and still comfortable. It’s a matter of focus and concentration. That is the gold standard you require of all your employees who interact with customers.

Make sure your counter staffers are all up to your standards of speed, and eliminate/minimize customer annoyance at the counter.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].