The human vs. the robot: Which can create customer loyalty?

My son and I went into a bookstore recently to pick up a gift for a client. The store was not very busy, and only two employees were working the cashier line. When I was ready to make my purchase, the employee robotically asked if I was a “member.” When I replied “no,” he asked me if I wanted to start saving money today. I then thanked him and replied “no” again. The transaction was complete, my gift was put in a bag with my receipt and I was on my way.

On our way out, my son noticed a book he wanted, so I immediately got back into the empty queue and went back to the same cashier. While I thought he looked at me during the last transaction, apparently his memory was either rather short or his job too boring, and he asked me again if I was a “member.” When I replied “no” and mentioned that he just asked me that question literally 30 seconds ago, he became very defensive and said, “Sir, I see hundreds of customers a day and can’t remember everyone.” Perhaps he should look at his customers and treat each engagement as an opportunity to build customer loyalty with solid, consistent service and not rely on the quota of new members signed up. If this bookstore keeps this up and online stores continue to deliver and meet expectations, the photo below might show the store’s future:

Without giving away the name of the organization, I was able to find this employee comment on

“The biggest problem is the amount of upselling required by management. Expect to ask EVERY customer if they want a membership, tell them two benefits of the membership, ask if they want to buy a gift card, demand they tell you their email address (actual suggested wording: “Give me your email address”), and if they have a kid, ask if they want to join the Kid’s Club. Management’s only solution to sales being down is to raise the goals and micro-manage sales of memberships etc. per hour, then write up cashiers when no one reaches the goals.”

Frustrated by the lack of service, I thought a Frappuccino might calm my nerves. The coffee shop employee recognized me, asked about my wife by name and proceeded to give us an extra sample of a new dessert. This is the way to obtain loyalty and repeat customers!