The demise of customer service in 2009?

How scary is this? I read an article in the Wall Street Journal recently that addressed some new retail tactics to minimize labor costs. For one particular company, the performance of the employee working the cash register was measured by how quickly he could “process” each transaction – or customer. His transaction was timed – from the moment he scanned the first item to the time the register spit out the receipt. A benchmark, time-measured, had been established and each employee now has to meet or exceed that amount of time. If he doesn’t, he’s demoted. For this company, employees are now responsible for the speed of each customer – if you’re an “in and out” kind of customer, well, these employees love you. However, if you’re a customer in “slow mo,” or perhaps a senior citizen or a person with a disability who needs a little bit more time, well, one would argue this company doesn’t like you. And I cringe at the level of eye contact and customer service these employees now must provide to each customer. Probably no eye contact (too time-consuming). Little customer service (No more, “Paper or plastic?” Shouldn’t you be bringing your own bags?) How does this mentality translate to you, the Super VAR, who is looking for dynamic ways to survive and possibly thrive in this stifling economy? Make eye contact. “Touch” your customers with a personal phone call. Ask them how they’re doing. Show that you care about them. Look for ways to save that don’t compromise your quality customer service. Steer clear of tactics and programs that “hurry” your customers. After all, the quickest doesn’t always win the race.

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