Know what drives me crazy as a customer? Bottlenecks and constraints in businesses at the worst place in the customer experience: the register.
In the last week, I visited a Target and a Home Depot and had a positive customer experience right up until checkout. The cash register is the last area you want to have a bottleneck. Collecting the money should be the easy part, right? In each instance, I waited out a longish line and still bought the items, but my super convenient customer experience was being eroded minute by minute. Think of all the steps, efforts, and dollars to advertise, market, price, merchandise, purchase, stock, service… that went into getting my attention, getting the right product, pricing it right, and ultimately leading me to a purchase decision. Why let it go to seed at the finish line?!
Think about the last time you had the long delay for the waitstaff to bring the check over at the conclusion of a great meal. Awesome, awesome, awesome, dud. It’s the last thing, or the out of character part of the service experience that is noticed and remembered.
Every business or multi-step process has a constraint, the portion that determines the throughput of the entire operation. Since these bottlenecks or constraints are the governors of the value created in a process, they should be the main focus for improvement. Gains in any part of the chain before or after the constraint just create more inefficiency. If you aren’t nodding, yeah, yeah I got this, I suggest reading Eliahu Goldratt’s book The Goal; I promise you a positive return on your time, regardless of your role.
Think about your business. No registers? You may have proposal signing, invoicing, statements, or e-commerce sites that are your version of the checkout. You do a great job and pour so much effort into getting to the finish line: evaluate your customer experience and ensure you’ve made it easy for your customers to buy and pay you.
Businesses like Ikea and Goodwill have installed the kiosks at the exits of their stores. On your way out you push a button to indicate the quality of your experience. What is a sure-fire smiley face throughout the shopping trip can easily turn into a frowny face if the bottleneck is the last thing you let a customer experience.
How do you ensure your customers don’t bottleneck at the register (or equivalent) and have an all-around solid customer service experience?