Training = Customer Service / Customer Service = Training

My wife and I frequent a certain local gas station for not only our fuel, but for other convenience needs as well. When we embark on a long drive to the city or to visit friends or family, we usually stop in to top up the gas tank and pickup a coffee or a snack for the drive. I estimate that at our peak (when gas prices were higher), we were spending approximately $500 per month at this one location.

Because we frequent this establishment so often, odds are that we will not get great customer service every single time we visit. Since new management has taken over some time ago, customer service has gone downhill. For me the major issue is that staff seems not to know what to do when something out of the ordinary takes place. An example of this occurred last week.

My wife and I stopped by as per normal, and attempted to purchase a fill up of gas. The pump seemed to act unusual and then suddenly reset to normal. I filled the tank and went inside with my wife to pay for the purchase. Due to some computer malfunction, they could not take our payment for anything other than cash. We offered debit card, or credit card, but the only thing they could accept was cash.

Well like most people now-a-days we don't generally carry cash. The attendant suggested that we withdraw the funds from their bank machine and simply pay for the purchase. While this is a great solution for them, we are charged an additional $1.50 service fee by our bank for using their machine. To both my wife and I this was unacceptable. We ended up writing essentially an IOU and vowed to return and pay the amount at a later time. We left the store frustrated and angry over how once again they were unable to satisfy us by making what should be a simple transaction, more complicated than it needed to be.

So you may ask where the training opportunity exists. It's simple - train your staff on the policies and procedures of the store. In this case there should be a policy and procedure on what actions to do when the computer responsible for taking payments for gasoline purchases fails. Maybe it's to deactivate the pumps, or maybe something simple as placing a sign out by the pumps informing customers that cash only purchases are acceptable. In either case the alternative of continually putting customers through the difficult situation my wife and I found ourselves in cannot be the solution. If you own a business, please train your staff. If you have trained your staff and they cannot cope with the unexpected than maybe you need to rethink your hiring decisions.

My wife and I worked for the same corporation when we met all those years ago. As my own sanity check, I quizzed her on many of the common scenarios we were trained on. For example; we both knew the procedures for what to do when our stores were held up for money or merchandise. We both recalled the procedures perfectly and would have been able to handle that situation. I should point out that neither of us has worked there in about a decade and neither of our stores where ever held up by criminals.

Training is crucial and no business can expect to function properly without it. It doesn't matter whether you hire a professional like myself or you conduct the training yourself. Ensuring your staff knows what to do when the unexpected occurs is the difference between your business running poorly or smoothly. My wife and I have decided not to return to this gas station for our future purchases, instead we will frequent their competition down the street. It's too bad because the competition does not offer all the conveniences that we enjoy.