Pay Attention!

I had a friend in grade school that said he was so poor he couldn’t even pay attention.  While I am sure he didn’t originate that phrase, it was still pretty funny to a bunch of 6th graders.  Today I was reminded that providing undivided attention is something your guests need and want.

Today it was Doris at our local WalMart who reminded me of this.  Linda and I were approaching the checkout, and Doris waved us over to her register.  Very pleasantly she walked with us from the aisle to the register, joking that we had just won something.  “You are the big winner”, she said.  Being at a checkout line with no wait, I figured we had already won, but I wanted to play along.

“What did we win?”  I asked.

“My undivided attention.” Doris proclaimed.

And she was right.  While ringing up our stuff, she joked and chatted with us like we were old friends.  She learned a little about us, we learned a little about her. And at the end of the transaction, she didn’t thank us for our purchases… she thanked us for the conversation.

This really made me think about what a customer or guest wants from a service interaction, and why so many of them go horribly wrong.


Think about it.  With today’s smaller budgets and lower staffing levels, front line service employees are being asked to do many more things than they have in the past.  Answer the phone, ring up a sale, find a missing item, process a return, answer the phone again, make change, call the warehouse, etc. And these are just generic retail responsibilities.  Think about how many things you are asking your employees to do.

Some people can handle the pressure.  William at Full Throttle VW here in Orlando is one of those people.  He has a vast experience dealing with the public, and it shows in the way he can handle multiple responsibilities all at once.  I am working on more in-depth profile on William for a future post.

If you are like many who long for the grand ol’ service of yesteryear, don’t think in terms of the quality of people (which is the typical assumption), instead think of the number of people involved and how they were allowed to specialize in their field.  A quick example is the gas station.  One person comes out to fill the tank, another person is checking your oil, and another person is washing your windshield.  Is this expensive in labor dollars?  Yes.  But think about the experience the customer had… they probably thought that was great service – and they came back for the service.  You can get gas anywhere.

Today you would pull up, pump your own gas, check the fluids and wash the windows if you felt like it, and possibly have no contact at all with an employee.

Until the pump doesn’t work.  Then the employee calls over the intercom to try to help, but the audio quality is shaky at best, so you can’t understand them.  You get upset, they get upset, all while they are also dealing with a line up people in front of them and the Pepsi delivery that just showed up 4 hours early.

You drive away thinking the service sucked because some untrained teenager who would rather be texting is completely incompetent and you weep for the future.

Get over yourself.

If you are a leader, I urge you to look at this from a workload standpoint.  If your first thought when the budget needs to be cut is to cut staff and combine duties, please stop.  Look at history and think through that move.  Think about the best service experiences you have had (and the places you want to go back to) and see if there is any corollary between the attentiveness and attention of the employees and your wonderful experience.

Then ask yourself about the worst experience, and the places you don’t want to go back to.  Probably someplace like the gas station example above.

People will wait longer, drive farther and pay more for great service.  Don’t make them choose you because you are cheapest, make them choose you because you are the best.

Thanks for reading!