Speedy ‘n’ Smooth (Part 1)

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Howard Scott |

Cool and in control at the counter is crucial

PEMBROKE, Mass. — Counter help’s 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:

S-l-o-w

C-o-u-n-t-e-r

S-t-a-f-f.

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 guy? Doesn’t he know that I’m a busy person?

If you have extremely fast, totally experienced, highly competent counter staff, you do not need to read this column. But for the other 90% of you, read on.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a fast-paced world. Everyone’s busy. Everyone has a lot of tasks. Even those who don’t work have all kinds of activities. So there is a potential rage factor when someone seems not to be working at full effort.

There is exasperation when someone is unsure of what they’re doing. There is dissatisfaction when a staffer interrupts her dealings with you and responds to another conversation going on. There is annoyance when a counter staffer doesn’t sense that the customer is impatient and clearly wants to finish the encounter and leave the store.

There is anger when the counter staffer opens the cash register and has to tear open a roll of quarters. “Why didn’t she open the roll after the previous transaction?” the customer mutters.

An impatient customer experiences strong displeasure when a counter staffer starts off by babbling about what a nice day it is.

I know this rage feeling well. We winter in the Bahamas (we can’t take the Boston winter), and while we enjoy ourselves tremendously, our blood pressure rises any time we have to deal with a store clerk.

Although they are fine people, they have no sense of time. They are glacially slow. They chat and dawdle as if there were all the time in the world. They have extra procedural steps, which are entirely unnecessary.

When there is an issue, they stare and look as if it was something they had never seen before. It's only then that they call over the manager. When they need help, they never say what’s going on.

Even though we don’t do anything constructive there, it’s annoying to see clerks so inefficient. With a shrug, we say, “It’s Bahamas time.”

To give an example of Bahamas time and wasted, unnecessary effort, most transactions are done with the clerk writing out a three-part receipt after taking the money.

They often have to look underneath the cash register for the pad. They feel everything, including product numbers, must be included, and they turn the box around until a number is spotted. If they get in a tangential conversation, it might continue for several minutes.

If you say that you don’t need a receipt, they insist that it is necessary. No encounter occurs without a lot of laughter and joking around. Indeed, it is the charm of Bahamas that time is at a standstill.

At the same time, it is a curse we must bear.

So beware. Make your counter staffers speedy. Make sure he/she has all the tools at arm’s length.

After you’ve trained them to move fast, make them super-fast. Every new employee who deals with the public must be made aware of the importance of being quick.

Any distraction while interacting with the customer (talking to a co-worker, kidding with a customer in another line, turning off a personal cell phone when called, and asking questions of another staffer) is forbidden.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

About the author

Howard Scott

Industry Writer and Drycleaning Consultant

Howard Scott is a former business owner, longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant. He welcomes questions and comments and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359; by calling 781-293-9027; or via e-mail at dancinghill@gmail.com.

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