First Come, First Serve – A ‘Brand Experience’ Dilemma?

OK – right out of the shoot, I want you to weigh in on this recent scenario.

I show up right at 7:30 am to an autoparts store who offers the service of testing and replacing car batteries. I wanted to be the first there because I had a 9am conference call to attend and wanted to get this battery ‘chore’ off my list. I pull up as the first at the retail site (yeah!). I walk in and meet Jon, the Asst. Mgr. who apparently opens the shop. He was friendly and eager to help. I explain that I have a sluggish start on my car and I suspect it is the battery and would like a diagnostic, and possible replacement.

He says sure as he smiles and hesitantly looks over my shoulder at the door. He has no other help as of yet this morning. His clerk is late and so he picks up the phone to call him. “My help is running late but is on his way,” says Jon, as he collects his diagnostic machine.

I say “great, I am right out front,” as I lead the way out the door to my car and pop the trunk. The moment he lifts the trunk lid, 3 other cars pull up in tandem and enter the store. I can tell he is concerned and nervous. He had hooked up the diagnostic to my car battery and said, “Sorry, I have to go inside and help these customers, I am alone here,” as he lays the machine on my engine and leaves me in the parking lot. Remember, I was the ‘first customer of the morning.”

I proceed to check my watch, 7:45 am, and pull my phone to check messages, emails, and basically, kill some time waiting for customer #2, #, #4 to be served. After another 10 min. goes by, a customer walks out of the store, arms full of new purchases and says to me, “he says he’ll be right out.”  I acknowledge the customer with a nod and hope it was true.

By 8:05, (20 min. later) the last of the three customers exit the store and Jon follows with apologies and proceeds to continue to test my battery with a declaration that my battery is “toast” and needs a new one. I concur and we work to get the new battery into the car. By 8:35 am, I was off and running back to my office for the conference call.

This isn’t the first time I have experienced being the FIRST as a customer, and being excused or ‘put on hold’ to wait for another subsequent customer to be handled (other vendors). I bet you, too, have experienced this! (One of my alltime favorites is when you are the check out with money in hand, and the phone rings and they pick up the phone rather than take your money and check you out!! Seriously?)

The result of my experience with this autoparts brand is:

  1. they don’t have a handle on staffing properly to handle customers volume and service offerings,
  2. it was OK for them to dismiss my needs in order to help others,
  3. no offer of consolation for having to wait 20 min. for service.

Whether my perceptions were “right or wrong” they were my perceptions. My question to my readers is:

  1. Is the “First-Come-First-Serve” conditioned expectation a realistic & sustainable one for brands?
  2. How do business brands, in this scenario deal with situations that interfere with this ‘promise’ or ‘expectation?
  3. Do consumers need to change their expectation around the ‘first-come-first-serve’ mentality?

I am anxious to hear your thoughts.

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