Automation – A true story about the inconvenient Convenience Store


A few months ago, my family and I took some time off and visited a small coastal holiday town during one of South Africa’s off-seasons. This is usually a terrific time for a well-deserved break as you don’t have to fight off the crowded beachgoers and the battle for a perfect parking spot. Why not? The weather is great, accommodation options are aplenty and lower rates are guaranteed. It makes perfect sense to me…

One afternoon after enjoying the sun and surf, we decided it was time for a few ice creams and drinks, and one or two loose items we needed for our obligatory end-of-day braai that evening. We visited the only relatively small convenience store in town to pick up the items we wanted to buy. There were two or three other customers also browsing the aisles. With a good twenty items in our basket we headed to the counter to pay and was met by the friendly owner who was only too glad to see us (little coastal town-based entrepreneurs typically generate the majority of their annual income during vacation times. Any additional moola during the off-season is a bonus).

After a polite, “Hello, how are you?” the owner duly informed us that their server was busy rebooting and that their point-of-sale system was down. Consequently, the entire check-out process had to be done manually. The owner did not appear too alarmed but was still apologetic that we might be delayed a bit. I wasn’t in too much of a hurry but was only concerned about the melting ice-creams (it was a hot and humid summer afternoon) and by now the other customers were queuing behind me (the benefit of first-mover advantage took on a whole new meaning.

At this stage the queue behind me had shrunk as two people had left the “convenience” store.

You can only guess what happened next…the owner pulled out an A4 sheet of paper and a pen. She started making a list of the items in my basket and then politely asked me to be patient while she had to go and check the prices for each of the items on her list. About 10 minutes later she returned with her completed list of items and prices (she was very efficient and knew her store quite well). At this stage the queue behind me had shrunk as two people had left the “convenience” store. I had also allowed my kids who had become a little restless, to eat their ice creams while I stayed put as I needed firelighters and chips for my braai leaving me with no choice but to patiently wait for the owner to complete my transaction.

She took out her calculator and started punching the tiny plastic buttons with her relatively generously-sized fingers, adding up the amounts I had expected to pay so I could desperately make my way out of her “convenience” store to consume my goodies. While she was adding up, I did my best to do a parallel mental computation so I could make sure that I don’t become the victim of an unfortunate case of “finger trouble” on a prehistoric calculator. Eventually, the owner confirmed the amount owed to her before I could finally make my way out of the store. Fortunately, the card machine was working and I felt reasonably comfortable with the total that had to be paid. Once the transaction was completed, I said goodbye and left the store.

What just happened?

I couldn’t have asked for a better first-hand experience to truly understand the benefits of:

  • A process that is slick and fit-for-purpose
  • Technology that works
  • Working in the cloud

More importantly, these elements are not so much about the business owner being more efficient and accurate, it is all about creating the best possible customer experience. The business owner of this story lost two customers and income that afternoon, something she probably couldn’t afford, only because of a poorly-timed server reboot. A business is not a business unless you have customers. Today there are still too many business owners who do not understand this principle. Many business owners forget the fact that their customers should be positioned as the heroes in their story, and everything they do should point towards creating the most excellent customer experience possible.

Too many business owners design processes that suit their needs instead of those of their customers. Too often decisions on process execution methods and techniques are made by only thinking about the cash component associated with these applications, with little to no regard for the cost of losing customers, or not attracting enough customers (opportunity cost).

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I see many comments on social media posts where people deride automation and blame it as the main cause of unemployment, or they consider cloud technology a threat to their business. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, more than ever, customers are willing to pay a premium as long as they can enjoy a rewarding client experience. It begins with your processes and you should use the finest cloud tech you can find to help you make the process as efficient as you can. With technology you can create more opportunities and more time to work on creating a unique customer experience journey for your clients that can only help you win. Contrary to what many people might think or believe, technology only causes unemployment if you allow it to do so.

Contact Doughgetters if you need assistance embracing your digital automation journey.

Willem Haarhoff will be joining us on 9 July to share with us the importance of it in your business, book here to attend.



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