Problem Solver: The importance - or not - of name-calling customers
Q: What are your views on businesses using a customers surname as part of the thank you message when the customer is paying by card?
A: This question can trigger strong views on the pros and cons of this. I am clear in my own mind that if there's an opportunity to use the customer's name, then it should be used professionally and appropriately.
In Superquinn we had two methods of identifying the customer by name. The first was from their credit or debit card and the second was a facility where by the customer's surname appeared on the operator's screen which was triggered by the use of their loyalty card.
We always encouraged staff to use the customer's surname with a title, for example 'Thank you Mr Jones'. The odd time we would encounter a member of staff who had stopped doing it and they would tell us that a customer didn't like the idea. We would then discover that the incident probably occurred three years ago and the operator had missed the opportunity to call several thousand customers by name. Most customers enjoy the professionalism of having their surname used and view it as part of a professional greeting or farewell. On the rare occasion a customer may not like it, it's not worth denying thousands of customers the opportunity because of this. Decide on your policy but I think there are a lot more positives to be gained from this, or opportunities to be missed by not doing it.
Q: What customer service initiative in Superquinn got the most positive response from customers?
A: That is not easy to answer, but it's an interesting question. Many services were genuine attempts to surprise the customer and make shopping easier, for example hot chocolate at the door on a cold morning, flowers for every female customer at Mother's Day, free loan of a salmon kettle from our seafood counter, knife sharpening offered by our butchers, etc.
The service which was talked about most was the free childminding at our Playhouses. Not alone were there kids taken care while mum did shopping in relative peace, our Playhouse leaders spent time creating an interesting space for the children and providing educational games, etc. The Playhouse also ensured that where a child had started working on a piece of craft, etc it was kept until the next visit.
We even regularly had kids protesting that they didn't want to go home and we certainly had lots of children who demanded that mum shop in Superquinn.
For parents, being able to do their shopping without interruption or without those all too familiar rows at the confectionery stand was heaven. Bag packing was a close second. Again, it is probably one of the biggest bug-bears of customers who get to the supermarket and struggle to keep up with the checkout operator while trying to get their wallet out. This was a significant cost for our business but a large number of customers who shopped with us as we had managed to take the stress out of shopping experience. We even took the customers trolley to their car and assisted them to load up.
Our objective was to provide as many different services to make the shopping experience as smooth and painless as possible and hopefully we achieved that!
Send your small business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org