“Plastic” Question or greeting?

customer experience retail

“Plastic” Question or greeting?

“Plastic?” Is this a question, a statement, a greeting, a reprimand for using plastic at all?

As many South Africans, I have become too familiar with this remark at grocery store pay points.  The disinterested expression accompanying it, can also make it seem a bit rude, if not only indifferent. Trevor Noah’s interpretations of “This is my culture – service with a smile” captures this brilliantly.

“Recent studies have indicated that 60% of customers that leave a brand do so because of a feeling of indifference,” notes Bill Gessert when writing about an entire purchase conducted without a single word. Should we count ourselves lucky that we at least get a sound (or a word) from the cashier?

Here is some guidance to grocery store owners and managers on how to turn this touch point into a win for everyone involved and a vastly improved customer experience

  1. It all starts with the greeting

The beginning of the interaction is very important. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group, well-known for their service culture. Their approach includes the Three Steps to service, starting with a warm greeting and welcome. Training for frontline staff should include the greeting, followed by the question around the need for bags. The practicalities of getting the purchased goods to the car is important but should not be prioritized above acknowledging another human being, even more if this is your customer.

  1. Connect with the customer

When engaging with customers, also ensure that the questions are appropriate. It doesn’t make sense to offer bags when the customer clearly brought their own.

Teach cashiers should be trained to be more observant and ask relevant questions like: “I see you brought bags. Do you have enough bags, or will you need plastic bags too?” or: “Do you require bags for your purchase, or have you brought your own?” The second question also serves as a reminder to customers to do this in future, and in that a connection is created with the cashier and the brand: we are all in the environmentally conscious journey together.

  1. Innovate around things that matter to customers

Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and many are joining the war against plastic. Become leaders in addressing real and current issues.

Good examples are retailers taking a stand against the use of plastic

  • The Spar EC team’s “Rethink-the-bag” campaign made it possible for customers to exchange 10 plastic bags for a paper bag. (Hopefully customers will not be greeted by, “Paper?!)
  • In another truly innovative move, an Italian restaurant in Cape  surprised customers with pasta straws.

Training for frontline staff should not only be a priority, but also address the basic skills in interacting with customers, as humans!

Ask us at The Consumer Psychology Lab, a customer experience consultancy, to partner with you on your quest to design your customer experience journeys and, become more customer-centric! We are passionate about customer experience, from developing strategies, designing customer journey, training staff, to measuring experience, to achieve this.


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