My favorite line! It's the one that's destroying customer service everywhere, right across this great land, from the largest HMV in Vancouver to the smallest Pharma Plus in PEI.
Imagine this scenario:
Let's say you're waiting in a long line at the drugstore. You have a cold. All you want is to buy some Dristan, so you can go home and sleep without choking.
Suddenly, another cashier opens up at another wicket.
"Can I help someone over here?"Like clockwork, the last person in your line runs to the front of the newly opened wicket, destroying the first-come, first-served philosophy on which the whole idea of "lineups" is usually based.
Imagine? I've lived it, brother.
It first happened to me at Pharma Plus - a shameless repeat offender - and in the last week I've seen it unfold before my very eyes at HMV, Sobeys, the Apple Store, and CIBC.
It must be stopped before it's too late. The future of humankind depends on it!
Why it sucks
- The whole idea of "service" is that you want to make things good for people spending their money at your store (or the store at which you work).
- It dehumanizes people. Individual people. "Someone" isn't a word to which any person in his or her right mind responds, "That clerk is talking to me!"
"Next in line" is only one level up. It may take care of the mad-rush-to-the-wicket problem, but it still dehumanizes the PERSON waiting next in line.
- It assumes that, given limited decision-making time, shoppers will behave rationally.
Granted, I may be giving the existentialist store clerk a little too much credit for forethought.
- It ignores the most important word in marketing.
In personal sales (Avon calling!), the way you do it is to make eye contact and say, "Would YOU be interested in buying some of these wonderful products?"
In a store setting, the way it works is you look up at the next "person" waiting in line, you make direct eye contact with that person, and in a confident, clear voice say, "Can I help you?" Then you smile, smile, smile.
The next time a clerk says, "Can I help someone over here?" when you're next in line, the appropriate response is, I believe, "Screw YOU!"