All I wanted was a banana tree....

...true my wife had designs on some new curtains for our bedroom but I needed the banana tree to support my new healthy eating whilst in the office; well I hate it when bananas bruise and they seem to speed up the decline of other fruits nearby.

So off to our favourite department store we go where everyone is a partner in the stores success.

No sooner had I walked in the door and right there in front of my eyes... you guessed it - Banana trees! Well six of them. On close inspection they were well made and well priced but all of them were missing just one vital element... A label for scanning purposes at the till. Still never mind I've got plenty of shopping to do first, well my wife tells me we have, so I leave the banana trees to fate and head off to the haberdashery department. See I even know the technical name...

Seemingly hours later, curtains priced and left behind since it works out the local interior decorators offer beats the store that will not be beaten, we head back to pick up my banana tree. Four left - still no scanning label - so I make a mental note of the price and follow the love of my life to another floor in pursuit of bin liners.

Eventually there I am in a short queue ready to pay for 4-5 items, excitedly I hand by basket over and befriend the gentleman behind the till with a little banter. Then shock horror - he says "Oh dear, there is no label on the banana tree, I'm sorry I can't process this" - with a queue forming behind me the Cashier decides to call for help. He hits the bell behind him - ping! - no answer. He spots a Floor Manager - "Simon" he calls out - I turn around and see the Floor Manager, Simon, walk straight past. The Cashier looks across helplessly at me "I'm sorry Sir, I can't process this item"

"Tell me what you need, I will go back to the stand and find it, you serve the people behind me."  Says I

He shows me the code, I waltz off back upstairs to find the special code, muttering under my breath about my predicament - loudly enough for the Floor Manager to hear as I pass.

I return a few moments later to see my friendly Cashier operating a second till, with a nice queue of its own, I guess my transaction still open awaiting the special code. "No rush" I say - The Cashier hit the bell once more - No one comes. He calls to Simon again as he passes by. I look again and see him unbelievably make no visible response and walk by...

Shortly the Cashier turns to me and completes the transaction, apologises and wishes me a good day - as you do...

My wife and I make to leave when the Floor Manager, Simon, approaches and asks "Was everything OK with your visit today Sir..?" - My wife, who knows me well, says "Oh dear... I'll see you at the car later darling..."

First I go back over the story above as factually as I can. When I finish Simon says "well Sir you've highlighted a training need for the Cashier because he could have typed a description of the item into the till and found the code that way"

I point out, again, his two opportunities to help out and unbelievably he says "Our procedure is that the Floor Manager calls in an extra cashier, which I did as you can now see that an extra cashier has arrived..." I look around and see two Cashiers and no customers at the tills...

I ask - "How was I or the Cashier supposed to know what you were going to do?"  

Simon - "He knows the procedure"

I ask - "And myself - the customer - how would I know..?"

Simon - "urmmm.. he should have explained..."

I say - "seems to me you've put process & procedure ahead of customer service and left me and a fellow colleague to resolve the situation ourselves whilst you hovered nearby doing I'm not sure what... that suggests someone else needs some training."

Having extracted a blank look I then attempted to coach Simon to uncover the root cause of all this angst which despite all my years of facilitation, coaching and interviewing I miserably failed to do...

There must have been two other people in the last couple of hours who had a similar experience because none of the banana trees had labels but could I get Simon to see that = No...

I offered my hand to wish him well and part on good terms and then he made his biggest mistake...

He asked - "any football for you this afternoon Sir?"

"No" - says I - "It's the Cup Final today and my team isn't playing"

"Oh" - says Simon - "I didn't know that -  I don't follow football.."

I left in shocked silence shaking my head...

Still I now have a great case study on the why identifying the root cause of issues and engaging hearts and minds of all staff, or partner, is key to fixing service failures at their root - not just with handling skills by a Cashier or Floor Manager...

If you'd care to add your own thoughts, experiences or customer service rant - please do so...go on get it off your chest - you'll feel better honest...

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