Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Promise is not performance

What is the point of staking your business's reputation on something that, in the nature of the case, you can't possibly control?

I am thinking of the new billboard ad for Kroger that promises "faster checkout," as well as the ad for Walgreen's that I just heard on AOL Radio saying that a customer went to Walgreen's and "with no lines, he was in and out in a flash." (Never mind that that seems to imply that people have stopped shopping there, which is one of the only reasons that there would be no lines.)

I have shopped at both Walgreen's and Kroger for over 35 years now, and speed is not among the virtues of either. Indeed, as I have pointed out to a Walgreen's manager, it is my experience that, even if I am there at 2:00 in the morning and with no other customers in the store, I will have to wait. Walgreen's clerks dawdle, and it seems to make little or no difference how much or how little customer traffic there is at a given hour.

I won't say that Kroger cashiers are *as* bad, but they aren't much better. Even when one of them tries his or her best, the store's equipment may malfunction; the cashier who checked out my entire order this past Sunday had to call another employee to help her figure out why the scanner would handle everything but the bunch of bananas I was trying to buy.

(Sadly, those aren't the only issues. As long as their shelves are fully stocked, all is well, but ask for a product that you normally buy there that you couldn't find on this visit, and you are wasting your time—indeed, in my observation, employees and management of both places seem bewildered and unaware of the product you are describing there to begin with, even when it is their store brand!)

If I were a Walgreen's or Kroger manager, I might, indeed, privately hand a token to two or three customers each day and tell them that if they weren't checked out in 5 minutes, their order would be free, and I would then use that as a tool to improve the quality of service. But even the very best business should expect, as a result of its success, to have more traffic, which means more and longer lines. For a business whose service isn't even very good to begin with, to advertise itself as though it offered better service than other places is absurd.

© Michael Huggins, 2011. All rights reserved.

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