This week I have been looking at customers experience at the check-out. When you consider that this is the last memory people take away with them from a shop you would think that retailers would ensure that it’s a good experience. From the evidence I have been seeing this is not always the case.

A couple of incidents are worth highlighting. With Christmas approaching fast and shoppers starting to buy gifts that will not reach their recipients until 25th December or after many stores are varying their refund/exchange policy. At one check-out this week I observed the truly shocking.

A customer who had selected several items to purchase, queued in line waiting for the next available till had her selection scanned on to the till and then when being told how much to pay asked for a Christmas gift receipt. Unfortunately, the assistant had finished the sale by the time that she appreciated the customers request. From there things just went down hill rapidly.

The assistant asked a more experienced colleague how to produce the requested receipt and was told that the ‘seasonal gift receipt’ had to be requested before the sale was completed. When the customer asked if the sale could be reversed at the till and reentered as a new sale she was told that if she wanted a correct receipt she would have to go to ‘customer service’. This instruction was given in a very brutal manner, shocking.

So what went wrong? What came across to me was that the assistant serving this particular customer was new to the store and she had not had sufficient training to do her job correctly and there was no one supporting her. I think that any independent retailer with an epos system will know they are complex. On this occasion it was the customer who got really poor service as the check-out staff did not have the power to amend the regular receipt with any form of ‘authorised amendment’.

The second store again at the check-out a customer produced a situation that went beyond the ability/knowledge of not just one assistant but two more that also got involved. The first assistant admitted that what the customer was asking was something that happens very in frequently. This meant that the situation was beyond the assistant’s knowledge. Again the staff training was at fault, not the staff member themselves.

So how can independent retailers learn from my observations?

The issue that clearly comes across is that over the next few weeks up to Christmas (and beyond) is to ensure that their staff all understand their role, are fully trained and have the authority to deal with customer facing issues. Not only that, by ensuring that your business doesn’t have rules and policies that cause these sort of issues at your check-out. Focusing on the customer experience in your shop you are going to be on a winner.