How Would YOU Improve this Customer Experience?

 This week’s blog by ICSA President Bill Gessert asks the question, “how would you improve the customer experience from a real situation he faced about a week ago.  Read the blog and Join the Conversation with your response and thoughts!

Quickly, complete this statement: “The goal of every business is to…”

I’ve asked this question of hundreds of executives. Here are some of the most frequent responses:

  • Make money
  • Make a profit
  • Grow
  • Become the leader in your market

All excellent answers, but not correct.  The goal of every business needs to be simply this: to get and keep customers.  Without doing this, you are not going to make money, profits, achieve growth, or be the leader in your market.  Without getting and keeping customers you have no chance of achieving your financial goals and objectives.

So how do you get, and more importantly KEEP customers? Clearly everything you do needs to keep the customer’s experience in mind.  From here, I could take this blog in a million different directions.  Because this is a blog and not a book, I am going to focus on touch points…when a business touches a customer and has an opportunity to succeed or fail to create a positive experience.


Let me share a personal experience from just a couple days ago.  I was at our local grocery store to pick up a few items for a nice bean salad to take to a BBQ.  With less than $18.00 worth of stuff in my cart, I headed to one of those self check out stations.

But I hit a snag when the pineapple I had would not scan for me.  Thank goodness there was an employee right behind me also in line with a couple items. “It’s not accepting the barcode on this item,” I said to her as a question of what to do.  A blank stare was the response I received.  “Can you help me?” was my next question.  “No.” 

Really?  No? 

At this point, to be completely honest, I seriously thought about just stuffing that pineapple into the bag without paying!  But I knew that was not a good karma option.  So instead, I tried again with this question, “Do you have any suggestions?”  With that the employee pointed in the direction of another employee and said, “She can help.”   It gets better (or worse really) from here.

I walk over to that employee and with all the best karma I could muster I smiled and said, “Hi! The scanner is not taking this barcode. Can you help me please?”

Without one single word, she took my pineapple spears, walked to the check out station, entered some kind of super secret pineapple spear code and boom – accepted.  With that she walked away without saying a word.

Customer experience.  The focus of all business is to get and keep customers. 

My negative customer experiences with this two minute event included the following touch points:

1.     The barcode not working (yes, this is a touch point, and it failed to create a positive experience)

2.     The employee behind me – her entire response to me was wrong.  She should have been able to help, and if not, she should have responded with something like, “I’m sorry your having trouble with that. While I am not trained to handle this, I can go get that woman over there for you and she can help.”

3.     The pointed to woman.  Not one word. Not one smile.  Not one acknowledgement of my “pain.” Not one positive customer experience.

You are a customer experience professional.  If this was YOUR grocery store, how would you turn all of this around?  If you were responsible for customer experience at this store, what would you do to insure that this never happened again? 

Share!  Join the conversation!


  1. I’m amazed at how often similar C/S experiences just like Bill’s experience happen to me. As a Customer, I have found myself guiding the service experience I want to have, rather than expecting it. If the service professional drives it, I’m surprised. If they don’t, I take over and model it for them, ensuring I’m overly pleasant and thankful. I even thank them again on my way out.

    • So true Ryan! I mentioned I was tempted to just leave with the pineapple…I was JUST as tempted to turn to the employee behind me and explain the proper way that should have been handled.

      I bet you would agree that creating great customer experiences is not all that difficult. So it’s just disappointing that so many of our personal experiences are so poor.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ryan!

  2. I’d turn it into a learning experience for the two employees and anyone else who needs some more soft skill training. It could be used as a starting point for role-playing on what to do to create great customer experiences.
    Unfortunately, there are two glaring problems – one existed before the incident, the other after.
    Leadership at the store failed to hire, then properly train, the right people. The two employees probably never knew how to create a good experience.
    Because management was neglectful upfront, it’s unlikely anyone will be watchful now and even noticed what happened – and a learning opportunity will be lost – as well as a customer.

    • Spot on Michele! I agree that the problem here is well upstream of these two employees and begins with the leadership at this store. Leaders should be creating a culture of service that leads to consistently positive customer experiences. It’s hard to get angry with these two employees when I know the real problem is well above them.

      Still, I just shake my head at the amount of times I run into this type of experience.

      Thanks for sharing Michele!

  3. I think Michelle is spot on. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a senior executive mention the desire to build a customer service focused culture within their organization. Unfortunately we tend to forget that any organizational culture is dictated top down. If the front line folks receive great customer service from their leaders, I believe they will deliver great customer service to their customers.

    • I agree Ron…and I will up the ante on all this. I believe that unless an organization practices creating superior experiences FIRST with their employees…it AIN’T going to happen with their customers.

      The BEST example I know of this personally is the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. They have service standards that are required of their employees, but here’s the key. They require that the same service standards be applied to BOTH fellow employees and to guests. It makes a WORD of difference!

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  4. What could leaders be doing in this scenario?

    What’s the vision? What attempts have been made to connect the employees to the vision. Why should they care about your darn pineapple?

    How do the employees feel about those scaners? Do they fear losing their job?

    How often is the store manager on the store floor?

    How do leaders collect feedback from customers?

    How are employees measured and rewared? What incentives are there for great customer service?

  5. Whether your a customer in a store or a customer having a servicer come into your home, the one providing service needs to be there for the customer. In very many cases people don’t know how to treat others with respect or compassion. Guaranteed the customer has more than the issue you are seeing at that time, happening in their life. Are you going to add to their problems & be like the rest they are dealing with? Or will you be the one to make their day. Have you ever asked for assistance at a store as the employee is walking by & they say “sorry I’m on break” as they keep walking by. My guess is the gal behind you in line was on break too. I believe customer service training is vital & would make a world of difference for all businesses & most of all the customers.

  6. This scenario happens a lot in the organization I work for. I have been recently made the Customer Service Manager and I am currently involved in the service culture re-orientation for my colleagues. because if they don’t know what great customer service is how will they give great customer service? Your situation Bill, is a wake up call to this store to put in place a service culture re-organization. As I would do, they can put in a system where it would be the culture to approach the customer who looks like he is in a bit of a trouble and offer him the help before he even asks for it!!

  7. A Customer Service Professional is one who is proud of their company, even if they do not always agree with certain issues. Everywhere one goes, everyone they meet, they “ARE A REPRESENTATIVE OF THEIR

    I believe that True Customer Service is given by those individuals who actually are born with the talent to assist people. “NOT EVERYONE IS!” You may continue to update train those who have the gift but you cannot train someone to be a customer service representative if they flat out are not a “People Person!”

    Customer Retention is so very important and vital to today’s business markets and “POSITIVE WORD OF MOUTH ADVERTISING IS FREE!” It’s not rocket science Folks, just people helping people and their positive business grow!

  8. Training and Education can be resolved, sounds like that is what is needed here. I think you handled it nicely, no rage, no outbursts. I know we all catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so it is always best to be nicer to people, and hope for the same in return. With some additional training, I can only hope this would not happen again to you or another customer.

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