Sunday, January 31, 2010

Don't Make the Customer Wait

Yesterday my husband and I were at Walmart. We were looking to buy a new television, one that was on sale. After shopping around, we had decided they had the best price for the item we wanted. We went to the electronics department, chose the one we wanted, and then tried to find a clerk to help us.

My husband went to the woman behind the counter and asked if there was someone who could tell us if they had the item in stock. She assured us that someone would be with us in a minute.

We waited.

I saw another clerk checking the price on an item. I asked her if she could help us. She said she would be right back as soon as she finished a phone call.

We waited.

Finally a young man, another clerk, came around and we asked if he could tell us if the television was in stock. He said he was with another customer, but would be right back.

We waited.

A fourth clerk came into the area. Before we could ask him for help, he waited on three other customers. He never asked us if he could help us, even though we had, by that time, waited about an hour. I thought maybe we had put on our cloaks of invisibility.

Finally the young man came back and said that he had to deliver an item to the front of the store and would be right back. He did actually come back in about 5 minutes. We showed him what we wanted and said that if it was in stock, we would like to buy one. He got a cart, went to the back room, and a few minutes later came back to tell us they didn't have any.

Now we could have probably ordered one or gone to another Walmart in a nearby town. But instead we went to a different store. They had the same television for about $50 more. They were courteous, offered lots of information, and quickly brought one out from their storeroom to load in our truck for us. Yes, we paid the extra. It was definitely worth it.

How does this apply to teaching? Don't make students or parents wait. I know that it's difficult, but they should be treated like a customer. Phone calls should returned as soon as a teacher has free time. E-mails should be answered within a day. Students requesting help should be offered it as soon as possible. They should not be put off.

If you're not going to be able to get with a parent or student in a reasonable amount of time (about one day), at least let them know that it's going to take a little bit of time and make arrangements for a time to meet.

Don't be like the clerks we encountered at Walmart. Your customers will go elsewhere.

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