Thursday, September 25th, 2008
Who should you service first? The customer who’s phoning or the one standing right in front of you? There’s a real double standard here among customers. When you’re the one calling, you expect the employee to answer promptly and assist you right away without being put on hold. However, when you’re the one standing in line waiting to be served you may expect that you should take priority over callers.
There’s a take and bake pizza store in my neighborhood that receives lots of phone orders. Customers then arrive at the store and wait in a line to pick up the pizza order they phoned in. Eventually they make their way to the front of the line where the employee working the register finally acknowledges them. At this point customers are at the mercy of the phone. If it rings, as it often does, they will have to wait another couple of minutes for the employee to take a phone order or two before their pizza is rung up.
On a Wednesday afternoon, it’s not so bad but on a Friday night? The line of customers waiting to pay coupled with the volume of customers calling in their pizza orders creates tension. I mean, really, you can sense it when you enter the store and can see it clearly in the body language of customers and employees alike.
Once, after waiting an inordinately long time to pay for my order, I actually considered using my cell phone to call the store and when they answered, saying something like, “Hello. Hey, do you see that guy standing in front of the register holding a $20 bill? Uh huh, right—the guy on the cell phone. That’s me. And I’d appreciate it if you’d stop answering the phone and ring up my pizza so I can get out of here.”
I’m sure the frontline hourly employee who faces this dilemma likely feels frustrated himself. Chances are he hasn’t been trained in how to properly handle such situations. Sadly, this fosters an adversarial relationship with customers who are then viewed by employees as impatient and unreasonable—as opposed to the source of their livelihoods.