add more staff to serve

2 Lessons Learned when Big Box Stores Add More Humans

Big box stores aren’t always the beacon of great customer service or big shifts in customer experience practices. This might be changing, if these two examples are any indication.

Fan of the blog/podcast, Warren Pickard, shared a couple of customer experiences he’s had to illustrate a possible shift in how companies are choosing to engage and communicate with their customers. Below are some words from Warren and a couple of lessons I think we can take from this move.

I’m noticing in Abbotsford a change in customer service. My local Canadian Tire (an automotive parts and accessories store) removed their automatic check outs and added more cashiers “aka humans” to their team. Though line ups are a little longer, they do a great job of merchandising their products to keep the people in the line up occupied while waiting. On top of that, I also notice conversations taking place amongst complete strangers. Myself included. Great step.

Lesson to Learn: Businesses have control over the entire customer experience in their store. Over the last few years, many “big box” stores have adopted a self-service model when it comes to paying for products. From what I’ve seen, this has only resulted in customer frustration and anything but convenience, regardless of how helpful the machine overseer is in answering questions and keeping the line moving. In this example, the store seems to have realized the missed opportunities they now have with automation and are going back to a traditional service model (aka people lining up to pay) with an improved experience while they’re standing there. Nice.

I was at Home Depot (a home improvement and construction store) last night, spending about 20 minutes gathering my list of items. I was approached 3 times by 3 different staff members asking if I could be helped with what I was looking for. I actually said to myself, “this is strange,” as I never had this level of service or attention before. Upon check out, the very young lady asked me if my experience was okay and did anyone approach me and ask if I needed help? I answered, “Yes, 3 different times. Is this Home Depots’ new approach to tackling customer service?” The young lady replied, “Yes, they want to try a new approach.” I chuckled inside and said, “It’s actually a very old approach, Home Depot is bringing it back.” She looked at me confused. 

Lesson to Learn: Customer service is proactive, not just reactive. Unfortunately, the usual extracurricular activity at a big store is hunting down staff to help you. Or it’s only after you’ve approached a front desk, cashier or service centre that you feel some sort of engagement or interest from staff. It doesn’t have to be that way. In this example, employees are making the point to reach out to customers, offering assistance or information. Though it can be a fine line between helpful attentiveness and harassment (there are a few stores I no longer go to because I can actually feel the “I’m on commission” vibe), it’s always better to be connecting with your customers than them playing “find the staffer”.

I love that these companies are not sticking to their model but rather looking at new (or old) ways of providing customer service that might work better for their clients. I’m curious what their feedback has been around this change. Thanks Warren for sharing these two examples.

If you have any stories to share, good or bad, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or through the “Speak into the Mic” tab on the far left. Regardless whether they’re negative or positive customer communication experiences, there’s always something to learn.

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