Check out lines getting to be more customer friendly

The CashiersThere’s a December 25 deadline, so it’s not really optional whether or not we want to wait at a checkout line – that is unless we shop online. This year, according to a Deloitte survey, online shopping is up in the United States from one-third last year to one-half this year showing more consumers opting to stay away from shopping malls.

There’s hardly anyone who has been immune to choosing the wrong line. My own experiences seem to escalate when I use the drive-ins at the bank because there are no easy ways to change bank aisles. In supermarkets, we get to choose our line, but in many other retail stores customers wait in one line and then move on to the next available register. Other stores more interested in keeping their customers off the Internet and still having the patience to wait for the next register to check out are much more innovative.

Home Depot brings in “line busters” who are employees who scan items in carts before the customer gets to the cashier. Apple Store employees have hand-held devices to help consumers check out. Yesterday I was at the AT&T store which positions a greeter at the front door asking how he could help and entered my phone number so the next available agent already knew my name and why I was there. Walt Disney World has taken a pro-active approach and while a customer waits online, a Disney character entertains them. Once the consumer is at the register however, efficiency and accuracy become the main attraction. And in Publix, the supermarket has their employees stand in front of the cash registers to not only say hello and smile, but indicate to shoppers their availability.

In the book, “Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping,” customers feel less stressed when an employee or electronic screen guides shoppers to the next available register. One line is often thought to be far less frustrating than switching back and forth between lines, quietly seething while someone else who came later gets to the checkout counter in another aisle quicker than you, or in the worst situation abandoning the product because the consumer is out of patience or time.

It’s interesting to ask people how they choose which line to enter. This morning at Publix, I asked a shopper behind me how she picked her check-out line? She told me she pays attention to what people have in their shopping carts, the age of a person, or how many children accompany the shopper. Carts overflowing with groceries take longer to check out, older people tend to unload their baskets slower, and children often are distracting to their mothers and the entire process takes longer.

So what should we do? The bottom line is if people don’t feel like a store is doing all they can to make the buying experience convenient, there are a lot of options out there. It’s holiday time everyone – hire extra help if needed and don’t keep your customers with their wallets in hand waiting.

photo credit: Aaron Jacobs