A Customer Service Win-Win

[article]
Summary:
While shopping at Target last week, I found an item I wanted that was $6.24, marked down to $5.09. At the checkout, the item scanned as $6.24. I told the cashier the item was on sale and should have rung up as $5.09. What do you suppose she did? Did she (1) tell me I was wrong, since it scanned at $6.24? (2) send me back to double check the price? (3) call over a coworker to go verify the price? (4) summon a manager to void the $6.24 and enter the sale price? (5) sneer at me, void the charge, fill out a form explaining the reason, and enter the sale price?

While shopping at Target last week, I found an item I wanted that was $6.24, marked down to $5.09. At the checkout, the item scanned as $6.24. I told the cashier the item was on sale and should have rung up as $5.09.  What do you suppose she did? Did she (1) tell me I was wrong, since it scanned at $6.24? (2) send me back to double check the price? (3) call over a coworker to go verify the price? (4) summon a manager to void the $6.24 and enter the sale price? (5) sneer at me, void the charge, fill out a form explaining the reason, and enter the sale price?

While shopping at Target last week, I found an item I wanted that was $6.24, marked down to $5.09. At the checkout, the item scanned as $6.24. I told the cashier the item was on sale and should have rung up as $5.09.

What do you suppose she did? Did she (1) tell me I was wrong, since it scanned at $6.24? (2) send me back to double check the price? (3) call over a coworker to go verify the price? (4) summon a manager to void the $6.24 and enter the sale price? (5) sneer at me, void the charge, fill out a form explaining the reason, and enter the sale price?

I've experienced all these aggravating responses at one time or another at other stores. Happily, this Target cashier did none of the above. Without a moment's hesitation, she pressed a few keys and entered the sale price. A pop-up box appeared on her screen asking why she was making a price change. She pressed another key or two. And that was it. Maybe nine seconds, and the problem was resolved.

Clearly, this is a store that has thought about how to minimize customer wait time and process purchases expeditiously, resulting in software that made a price change simple and efficient. And this is a store that gives its front line staff the authority to make price adjustments without needing proofs and permissions. (Granted, if the price discrepancy had exceeded some amount, or the cashier was a trainee, or I looked like a scheming conniver, the price change might have entailed a few additional steps.)

Suppose, though, I was wrong. Suppose I'd picked up a $6.24 item that someone had placed with the $5.09 sale items and so I thought it was on sale when it wasn't. In giving me the reduced price simply on my say-so, the store would have sustained a loss. Apparently, though, this small loss is considered a cost of doing business - a risk worth taking in the name of customer satisfaction.

This experience was one of benefits all around. I was able to find, buy, and exit quickly. The cashier didn't have to face a potentially crabby customer while correcting the transaction. The store avoided a line of stalled customers.

Plus, the experience was a ready-made blog post. And Target gets a public thank you from a happy customer. Truly, a win-win-win-win-win.

User Comments

2 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Thanks, Tobias. Too many organizations fear losing control if they let the front-line workers have too much authority -- or any at all. The reality, though, is that most people given such authority take it seriously and use it responsibly. And maybe (just maybe) the benefit in terms of customer satisfaction more than compensates for the occasional employee who abuses the authority.

August 6, 2009 - 1:27am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Roy, I like your use of the word "unfettered" because that's exactly what this is about -- the ability not just to take action on behalf of the customer, but to do so without making the customer jump through multiple hoops or wait while management does the hoop-jumping. I looked up synonyms for "fetter" and found chain, hamper, restrict, confine, impede, and restrain. That pretty much says it all.

August 6, 2009 - 1:36am

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

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