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"Express This!"


A Commentary on Customer Service


Have you ever been in the grocery store after having picked up a few items, then made your way to the "Express check-out line" only to find yourself spending more time waiting to check-out than it did for you to do all of your shopping in the first place?

It seems that some grocery stores have made a mockery of the English language. We may have thought that the light above the cash register which says "Express Lane: 12 items or less" meant that this was a quicker lane to go through than the others which were jammed with shopping carts loaded with hundreds of items. So, we stand in a non-moving Express Lane, tapping our fingers, looking at the ceiling, humming tunes like "Old Man River" attempting to amuse ourselves. A brief glance to the adjacent lane (a non-express one) reveals happy customers paying the cashier and exiting the store. But wait a minute, that customer got through their lane before we did, and they had 50 items in their cart! And we were in the Express Lane before they were in their lane!!!

What did we miss? What did we do wrong? We made sure that we only had 12 items or less to comply with the "Express Lane" rules so we could make a fast exit from the store. Yet we are left standing in a lane which makes flowing molasses seem fast.

You see, we may have thought that the use of the word "Express" meant fast, quick, efficient. What it really means (when you are stuck in one of these never-moving lanes) is exactly what it says..."Express"! This is the lane you are supposed to stand in when you feel an overwhelming need to "express" your angst and frustration about the lack of customer service. It is our fault for not understanding the store’s use of the word "express".

So remember, the next time you are stuck in one of these lanes, realize that it is the store’s way of allowing you to "blow off a little steam"! They’ve created these lanes for the benefit of customers who never have the opportunity to "get it out of their system"!

One might think that a solution to the problem would be to re-title the lane as "Slow Lane", but that wouldn’t accomplish what the store intended. Just because people entered the "Slow Lane" doesn’t mean that they’d feel comfortable enough to express their frustrations.

This might sound a bit blown out of proportion, but it happens every day.

There are stores (the ones I try to frequent the most) which do believe that the word "Express" means fast, quick and efficient. They understand the concept and their customers’ needs.

As the world moves faster and faster with newer kinds of technology, some things seem to move slower and slower, or, have been forgotten. The concept of customer service is one of the primary maxims which should be adhered to by all businesses. Faster technology doesn’t mean that you can forget quality customer service.

So, if you own a business, and you find yourself listening to customers expressing less than positive comments about the service, it just might be that you forgot one of the most important elements to any successful business,.......the customer! There is no valid excuse for poor customer service! If you’re interested in definitions, you might find it advisable to ask your customers what their definition of "Express Lane" is.

As a customer, when I want to check-out quickly, I’ll stand in the express lane. When I want to express my complaints, I’ll stand in the complaint lane. When I express a desire to learn various definitions for words in the English language, I’ll take an English class. But most of all, when I want to do business, I will look for businesses that express a genuine concern for me as a valued customer.

So, the next time you find yourself expressing negative comments in the Express Lane, it might not be that you’re in the wrong lane,..... it might be that you’re in the wrong store.


Mark S. Deion
17 August 1999

© Copyright 1999



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Mark S.Deion

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