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Foolish Consistency Is The Hobgoblin Of Poor Service

Aug 14, 2008
With apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson for paraphrasing his quote , here's an easy way to make your company stand out from the rest, in a good way or in a bad way.

It's called consistency.

But, not all companies understand the difference between consistency and foolish consistency.

In my town there's a grocery store that exemplifies this. It's a nice grocery store. Quality products, friendly staff, decent prices, clean and well maintained building, etc. I do 95% of my grocery shopping there.

But they're not perfect. Not even close. Every time I go there, I get asked the same question:

"Did you find everything you were looking for?"

This seems like a good question to ask. But it's not. Here's why.

The person who asks this question is the cashier. They ask me as I roll my cart up to their cash register and get ready to check out. What they seem to miss is, when I walk up to the cash register, it means I'm done shopping.

So, why ask me if I found everything?

If I didn't find everything, it doesn't matter because I'm not going to take the time now to go get it. (Besides, does the cashier really want to delay everyone in their line to go run down something I couldn't find? I doubt it.)

If I did find everything I was looking for, then the question is irrelevant.

So, either way, it's a useless question, the way it's asked. The time to ask this question is when people are STILL SHOPPING. That's when you can actually help them. Once they're done shopping, you're not helping them by asking them this question.

Why do they ask this question at the cash register?

Probably some consultant said they should. And since they heard it from a highly paid consultant, they do it. And they continue to do it without thinking about it.

Actually, they do think about it. I have asked several of their staff why they always ask me the same question. Everyone told me they have secret shoppers. They lose points if they don't ask the question.

A better plan would be to find out if customers are even having trouble finding things. If not, then don't worry about it.

If they are, then position people throughout the store who can help them. Or use courtesy phones. Or have a button they could push for help. Or have a computerized product locater available in each aisle.

There are at least a dozen ways they could help their customers find what they're looking for WHILE they are shopping. But asking them after they're done shopping is foolish.

And doing so consistently doesn't provide good customer service.

Make sure every contact you have with your customer serves them. Make sure what you do and say is designed to help them, not you. Put yourself in their shoes and walk around. See things from their perspective.

Then do that on a consistent basis. Do it every time you interact with a customer. That's smart consistency. And it will help you attract and keep more customers. I guarantee it!
About the Author
Kevin Stirtz is the Amazing Service Guy. He is a customer service speaker and trainer who helps companies increase revenue and profits by delivering Amazing Service. Kevin has spoken to thousands of people across the USA and in Europe about how to improve customer service. Get a free copy of Kevin's Amazing Service Toolkit at: http://amazingserviceguy.com
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