It might be time to say goodbye to the counter in certain types of stores. For both business owners and customers, this promises to be a technology-enabled, customer-appreciated blessing.
Increasing numbers of retail customers are finding the traditional counter no longer exists in many stores. For example, when a customer walks into an Apple store or a Verizon store, they typically find no counters. Instead, they find store personnel ready and waiting to assist. While free to walk around the store with the customer, the clerk uses a handheld device to check inventories, account data, and technical information. After purchase decisions are made, the clerk easily completes noncash transactions on that same device. Writing in PC World, Mark Sullivan assesses his experience with the counterless transaction (“Counter-Free Buying Is a Boon for Customers” July 2013, pp. 23–24):
“Counter service is still the rule in hotels and most other retail businesses. But while functional, the counter imposes a barrier, and can create an adversarial mentality between the two parties, especially if a problem arises during the transaction. With the counter removed, the dynamic changes. To me it feels like a more collaborative effort. And I’d argue that with no counter to provide a buffer, disagreements would not escalate as quickly. I might be less inclined to raise my voice at someone who I thought was treating me unfairly if I was standing right there on an equal footing with them.” (p. 24)
I remember the very first time this happened to me. I was initially shocked, but then very pleasantly surprised. Not only did I find what I needed, but also the customer experience was superior.
Let’s say goodbye to counters wherever we can!