Does Self-Service Mean No-Service

It’s 7:30 at night. It’s been a long day. I had been speaking at a conference in Calgary, Alberta, and now, after three days, I was heading home,  determined to be kissing my wife by 10:30 pm.  I stopped at a gas station before jumping on the highway to fill up.

As is for most of the gas stations in major cities, I had to pay at the pump. Credit Card in, straining to see the display (it was -17 Celsius, the Fahrenheit equivalent was, “Frigin’ Cold”). The little screen slowly phased to the next, “Please remove .”

Being a compliant human, I did what this machine told me to do.

Slowly, the screen morphed, (why do we use LCD screens in Canada? – I mean, the operative word in “Liquid Crystal Display” is “Liquid” isn’t it? ….. -17 degrees, remember?)  and the “To Start, Please Insert Card” became visible.

So, I started the process again. Only to be met with the same routine. After two more attempts – Hey don’t judge…. I had to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong. I figured I had to be smarter than a gas pump, right? Not so much, it turns out.

I pressed the intercom button, the one that says, “For help press here!”


I pressed the button again…… still nothing. Once more…… crickets! Through the store windows, I see the clerk walking, ok, sauntering, from the right side of the store to the cash desk, on the left side of the store. From the intercom speaker I here, a garbled, distorted voice, “Doo wnann umpph secora slampotin,” I press the button and say, “the pump does not seem to work, I put my card in, and itrejected it.” “Slopistoken ?” “What?” I respond. “ dou smothin secors flaskisin commladin seherera don!” comes the horribly distorted sound.

Obviously, we were not communicating.

        < I give the universal signal that something is wrong with the pump >

I imagine that my version of the conversation is getting just as garbled as his version. He comes to the front door and peers through the glass, his hands cupping his face, probably so he can see into the darkness. I give the universal signal that something is wrong with the pump: Swaying back and forth, pointing at the pump with each hand making a motion slicing my hand across my neck, then shrugging my shoulders, hands up as if to say, “What the French Toast is wrong with this thing?” I probably looked like one of Justin Timberlake’s back up dancer’s father, trying to keep up. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty!

He then walks back to the desk, “ kasturak staturin mosphlioksis monstor” comes over the speaker once more. He then picks up a box and walks back to the left side of the store.

I feel that I have just been abandoned in “Self-Service Purgatory.” I was left standing there.

Now, granted, I could have gone into the store, it could not have been more than 150 feet away. I could have gone in to try to solve my problem. But I didn’t. I felt, that if the clerk could not be bothered to help me solve my problem, I would go somewhere else. And I did.

I gassed up in Airdrie, Alberta, 30ish minutes away. While there, I bought two large teas (one in a paper cup, and one for my insulated car cup. I bought some beef jerky, some Cheetos, and two peanut butter Oh Henrys. I know it’s not a healthy diet, but I had close to 3 hours to cover. Aside from my gas, I spent $18 at the store.

It left me asking, was $18 enough revenue from one customer to motivate a business to exude the tiniest bit of customer service? Was that gas station in Calgary doing so well, it could afford to lose the sale of the gas and the merchandise?

I’ve had similar experiences of Self-Service Purgatory in retail outlets and self-service counters in fast food outlets.

With the increase in the minimum wage and increased overall costs, I get that operators need to reduce their expenses. Operators have to carefully weigh, product cost and value, operational cost, and efficiency, while still being competitive and of value to their customers.

But does “self-service” mean “no service”?

I bet top dollar that in the operators’ view, the answer is a huge “NO!” But there seems to be a separation between the owner/operator’s view and the employee’s perspective. When standing in front of the self-checkout kiosk, the employee-in-waiting seems to give you the “well, you chose to do self-check-out!” stare when something goes wrong. Having one clerk, for 10-12 machines might be cost-effective in theory, but measured against the angst of a customer trying to purchase an 8’ ladder, and the machine squealing “please place your purchase on the bagged item square!” can be too much to take.

So, here are three easy-to-implement behavioural changes that will help you focus on making sure your customer has a great experience.

  1. Customer Service means caring for your customer. Even though like me, some may not be smarter than a gas pump, customers sometimes require patience, understanding and help. Keep in mind, you are in your environment for every working hour, you know everything about your store, the equipment, etc. – your customer just got there. What seems like child’s play to you, might be more complicated for a first-timer, especially if it is a senior or someone with accessibility issues.
  2. It takes very little to find out what your customer needs. Just ask, “How can I help?” “Need a hand with that?” It’s still about you being a service to them.
  3. Solve the problems for the customer. That means, having the resources in place to immediately jump on the issue. Customer service is rarely judged when everything goes well, it is always judged when it goes poorly. Solve problems to the advantage of the customer, for the customer, with their needs in mind.

Now more than ever, as retailers and operators looking to find efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities, we cannot afford to be less hospitable to our clients. As my friend, Bob “Idea Man” Hooey says, “If you don’t take care of your customer, someone else will!”

Shared Experiences

Lyndi Hamon

Marc gave a really great presentation. He was engaging, relatable and has a great sense of humour, I was laughing throughout the presentation.

He seems to understand the clientele well, what to expect, and how to find points of improvement and relatability.

Overall I would give his presentation high ratings, I think this kind of client-focused training is important for any business to learn.
Lyndi Hamon, Electrologist, Event Attendee
Dr. Danie Botha
"Marc’s Leverage Design Thinking for Your Next Live Event workshop was a real game changer. Going into the 3-hour session as a “skeptic,” I left a “believer.” The fast-paced, hands-on approach and Marc’s enthusiasm, insight, and knowledge helped our group change how we now prepare for our next live event."
Danie Botha, Physician, Author, Speaker
I recently attended a brainstorming session that Marc conducted for the CAFP. Not only did Marc structure it in such a way that within an hour we had a list of valuable takeaways that I had thought would take at least three hours to uncover, but his level of engagement and energy, and use of humour meant that we ended up with excellent outcomes AND had a lot of fun along the way.
Kim McQuaite, Kim Communications
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Eva Bencsik, Mr. Printer
I thought his presentation was very informative and provided a lot of insight into problem-solving in regards to some of the issues our industry deals with, specifically with clients.

He was a great speaker and enjoyed it very much, I feel as though Marc has had a lot of experience in the business industry and is genuine in wanting to help others with their businesses.

He had a few funny moments we all enjoyed too! I felt there was value in his presentation/training because I was able to relate and use it towards both of the businesses I have, Electrolysis and my Skincare line.
Susanne Bodevin, Director
I just came out of Marc’s session on how to become an empathetic leader. I chose his session because as a manager, I get so caught up with my day-to-day responsibilities, that I have not been present with my team. Marc’s session today gave me strategies and systems to help me be more present, and more sensitive to the needs of my people.
Tracey Durant, South-Side Sobey’s
A few years ago I attended one of Marc’s workshops with a number of my front line employees. We found the session helpful not only with dealing with difficult customers but our people felt they also applied the techniques to their everyday lives and with fellow staff members in resolving conflicts. Marc made the group feel comfortable enough to share stories and experiences as well as tactics that had worked for them in the past. I have attended many similar events where people were never as forthcoming as we experienced here. The material was pertinent and topical and Marc was able to make it relevant to everyone in the room. I have always prided myself on being a good conflict arbitrator and still today find that I am able to utilize many of the ideas and techniques we learned in Marc’s session.
Jeff Millar, IGA Garden Markets
Marc's Dealing with Difficult People strategies and content were so valuable I was able to successfully put them into practice the very next day while dealing with an irate citizen. He was happy, I was happy - made for a great day!
Tracy Preece, Bylaw Officer (former), Town of Devon
Marc Haine is emerging as one of the best motivational and inspirational speakers in Alberta. He is a masterful presenter and engages his audience with a positive and uplifting message. His trademark is "Dare to be the exception", and for groups and organizations that need to think - and act - "outside the box" should not hesitate to have Marc as their keynote speaker
Judge Brian Stevenson, Past International President, Lions Clubs International

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