pet peeve

Pet Peeve: Too Many Staff Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing

You know that old joke, “how many (insert relevant person here) does it take to screw in a light bulb?” I often ask myself that question when I’m in a business…though I don’t tend to laugh at the punch line so much.

Here’s my joke: “How many staff members does it take to figure something out/help a customer/complete a task?”

pet peeve
Thanks, but who’s helping the other customers?

I’ve often found that when an employee can’t complete the task at hand, they ask another employee to help. And another employee has to come over to see what they’re doing. Now three staff members are doing the work of one while customers watch…and watch…and don’t get served.

A few months ago I was at the Bay where two cashiers were helping a customer with her purchase. One to ring in the purchase, one to bag the purchase and both to chat with the customer. This is all fine if the person they were serving was the only one in eyesight. Not the case. I was standing…waiting…watching with my girlfriend.

A “Sorry, can I help you?” No.

A “Hi, we’ll be with you in a moment?” Nope.

A “Sorry, I’m training but I’ll be right there”? Nada.

You know what sucks? Being treated like you don’t exist.

But what also sucks, is wasting resources rather than helping customers. Managers are there to manage – staff, customers, the store…so let them. When customer service is already under fire for generally being bad, don’t make it worse by having enough staff but not using them to properly engage with your customers.


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8 thoughts on “Pet Peeve: Too Many Staff Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing”

  1. So very true Russ. And I like the reference you make to “just how many people does it take..” I have seen this situation you describe many times. The only thing that drives me even crazier is when there is no customer there and they still ignore!!

    Nice post indeed and I will RT.
    Thanks for contributing to customer service excellence.

    1. Thanks for the comment and kudos Kate.
      I don’t know if it’s a matter of the manager not making their presence felt or the employees not prioritizing. Certainly an issue that needs to be addressed.

  2. Great post, Russ
    What’s interesting from a psychological perspective is that in such scenarios, even a quick looking up, meeting the customer’s eye and giving a quick nod to acknowledge they are waiting can be sufficient to prevent the customer from feeling ignored. We’re talking a mili-second of effort that would make a significant difference to the customer and yet the situation you describe occurs with alarming frequency (ironically, often at the customer service counter).
    This is exactly the kind of treatment that causes customer attrition–since to the customer, it seems too minor to complain about but yet too irritating to ignore, so they simply shop elsewhere.
    Guy Winch Ph.D.
    Author: The Squeaky Wheel

    1. Thanks Guy.
      As you state, this is a great opportunity for the quiet, unhappy customer to speak volumes by going somewhere else. Customers understand how little effort it takes to be acknowledged so if an employee can’t even make that effort…

  3. Absolutely spot on. There is only one satisfactory solution to this sort of CS ineptitude and that is to wonder in a voice loud enough to get everyone’s attention: “Am I supposed to mention this in my secret shopper report?”

  4. I’ve been in your spot before, it’s frustrating. Customer Service pros will throw in a form of acknowledgement. It’s a small yet effective gesture. Being ignored at a store is similar to waiting on hold to reach a CSR at a call centre.

  5. I’ve had that exact situation occur to me recently! The energy that I expended with my seething anger at the three helping one customer with an incredibly minor issue, was matched only by their combined effort to ignore my presence, standing just feet away.
    I walked away without saying a word, and that’s how I stay out of jail.

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