In Search of Anchovies and Artichoke Hearts: Lessons in Customer Experience From The Corner Grocery Store

When interacting with customers, do you Point or do you Escort?

You’re in the grocery store looking for a particular item.  After scanning the aisles and staring at the shelves in vain, you spot a store employee and ask him for help.  What does the employee do – Point or Escort?


Whether it’s a corner grocery store or a big box retailer, this is a moment of truth for any business.


Some opt for the “Point.”  That’s where the employee tells you where to find the item in question, and gestures so you know which way to walk.  Others go with the “Escort.”  Here, the employee tells you where to find the item, but actually leads you to the precise location – aisle and shelf.


To some, the distinction between the Point and the Escort might seem trivial, but they actually reflect very different service philosophies.


With the Point, a business is trying to maximize its own employees’ efficiency.  It takes time to lead a customer to a particular place in the store.  It takes the employee away from whatever they were doing, be it stocking shelves or doing an inventory.  So why not save some time and just point the customer in the right direction?


With the Escort, a business is trying to maximize the customer’s efficiency.  The focus is on helping the customer achieve success (in this case, by finding a specific product), while minimizing the amount of effort they must expend in the process.


Now consider what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the Point or the Escort (you’ve probably experienced both).  From that perspective, the difference between these two approaches is much starker.


The Escort makes you feel cared for, implying that the employee isn’t just interested in disposing of you, they’re actually invested in helping you.


In contrast, the Point signals that the business values its own people’s time more than that of its customers.  How far do you think that message will get you?  (And don’t pin your hopes on the Point’s purported operational efficiencies.  Without more precise direction, that customer is going to keep accosting other employees for assistance – or just leave in frustration.)


The concept of the Point versus the Escort applies well beyond the retail sector, because this isn’t just about finding a product on some shelf – it’s about making customers’ interactions with your business effortless.


Look at all of your consumer touchpoints through this lens – your sales presentations, your marketing materials, your order entry process, your call handling, etc.  Are you pointing customers in a general direction and leaving the rest up to chance?  Or are you escorting them to successful outcomes (and greater loyalty) by making these touchpoints not just easy, but effortless?


If you want to avoid a nasty clean up on Aisle 6 (and everywhere else in your business), quit pointing and start escorting.

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