When I started to write this post, I really had to stop and reflect as to whether the topic of today’s rant should be on customer service or on consumer behavior. After much consideration, I settled on consumer behavior. And so the story begins …
As many of you know, I’m a mom with young kids – twins in fact. Like many moms, I make frequent (and often dreaded) trips to my local grocery store. The other day, I realized with great angst that it was “Garbage Day” and then realized, with even more angst, that my darling husband was conveniently out-of-town, as is so oft the case in my life. Why does this matter? Well, I’ll tell you. Here in beautiful Kansas City, MO, we have rules about garbage. Denizens of our fair city are permitted two and only two bags of garbage at the curb on a weekly basis. If you’re a garbage-generator (like me) there is a remedy – you can purchase little tags for $1 each and affix them to your “extra” bags and you’re good as gold. The only problem – there are only two nearby places a person can purchase these golden garbage tickets. One is my neighborhood grocery store.
So, at 6:30 pm I dragged my reluctant and tired progeny to the grocery store so as to purchase these golden garbage tickets. Whilst there, I conveniently purchased about $80 worth of ‘necessities,’ without which, I’m certain, my family could have not survived. The beauty of running in for just one thing – and you ALL know what I’m talking about here. So, I finally get in line, stand there waiting my turn, cajoling my children into continued good behavior (no easy trick at this hour) and, voila, it’s our turn. To my utter chagrin and NOT until after I’ve unloaded my $80 worth of necessities do I see a little sign that says “You cannot purchase stickers anywhere but at customer service counter.”
You have GOT to be kidding me. I came to this store just for stickers, bought $80 worth of other crap, stood on this long line with a bunch of other cranky people and NOW you tell me that I can’t buy the ONE THING I came here for in this line? No way! So I say to the young checker “You’re not really serious that I can’t buy garbage stickers in this line, right?” She gives me the blank look that goes right along with being a 16-year old working at a boring job and says “Nope, sorry” (clearly empathetic to my plight), and finishes my order. Shaking my head in disgust, I espy the line for the customer service desk, also conveniently the “10 items or less and smoker’s paradise aisle” which is now about 10 people deep. Super. My kids have been patient for all this time but are going to snap like twigs into full on meltdown at any moment. Parents – you know what I’m talking about. I have no choice, however, but to bribe them with even more candy and wait on the very long line for my doggone garbage stickers, positively steaming with disgust at the complete and total lack of knowledge about consumer behavior that this store is exhibiting.
It is finally my turn. As I place my order for stickers, I say to the clerk “I’m sure you didn’t make this rule, but seriously, what is the logic behind having this be the only place a person can purchase garbage stickers?” Funny thing, the store manager (are you hearing this Cosentino’s Price Chopper owners, in Brookside, MO?) was at that very moment walking by and, as he heard me start to ask a question, he paused, as if to offer sage guidance. However, when he heard my question, he quickly darted away, leaving the lowly clerk to answer. Impressive management style, huh? And the clerk graciously told me that they were having trouble with checkers ringing up the stickers properly, so they just quit allowing them to do it at all. Too bad, so sad for me that they can’t invest in training their checkers better – instead, the customers must pay.
Here’s how this whole thing relates to consumer behavior – and thanks for hanging in there with me. Grocery stores – ding*dong … I’m your target audience. I’m a mom with kids. I am in charge of feeding a family. I am the person who spends, on average $800 a month at your store. Are you listening yet? Ergo, I’m a pretty doggone valuable asset to you when it comes to your bottom line – aren’t I? As such, you should pay attention to the things that make me happy. For me, and I’m pretty sure I can speak for legions of moms out there, I want good products, clean stores, adequate parking, helpful staff and – most importantly – don’t make me wait on two separate lines for inconsequential things like garbage stickers. Don’t invent ways to inconvenience your customers – ever. Figure out ways to streamline their experience with you and you’ll have loyal customers for life. The thing about consumers – they like things that make their lives easier, not more difficult. So pay attention to the customers like me, Mr. Grocery Store Manager, because, here’s the thing – I have a choice about where to do my grocery shopping and, next time, I’m going to spend my $800 a month somewhere that values me. And values my time.
Consumer behavior. Whether you’re a grocery store owner or any other kind of business owner, learn this lesson and you won’t go wrong. Figure out what makes your customers’ lives easier and it will, no doubt, keep them coming back. Back it up with great customer service and good products and you’re in tall cotton. But don’t make decisions to save money because you can’t invest the time or energy in training YOUR people right and expect me to pay the price – when the price is my valuable time. It’s just not gonna happen. You see, grocery stores are a dime a dozen (at least they are in this town) and me and my $800 a month, we’re outta here. Thanks for the memories.