What Waiting In The Wrong Line at CVS Taught Me About Online Customer Service



Hey, Laura Roeder here, and I want to share with you an experience I recently had at CVS that taught me a great lesson about customer service that’s often overlooked. So, you know, the actual details are pretty boring. Basically, I was picking up for prescription at CVS. I thought that I waited in one line and then they call my name, but it turned out that on this particular day at CVS, I was supposed to wait in two lines and they would never call my name, which I finally found out after like an hour and a half of waiting.

So, basically what happened is I waited in line number one, and then when I was done, she said, “Go wait over there for your prescription.” I thought I had played this game before. I thought that meant that they would call my name, but apparently not. And all of this could have been resolved by line number one lady saying, “Go over there and wait in that line to get your prescription.”

It was just a very simple miscommunication, a very simple case of us both making assumptions. The kind of moral of the story is you can never be too specific and too detailed in what your clients and customers need to do next. As consumers, we always appreciate it. And it’s easy to forget as a business owner because we know how our business works. It seems really obvious to us. And this is especially important – you know, I was going to say it’s especially important in digital products, but that’s not really even true. In a [0:01:33] [Inaudible] business, I don’t know about you, I’ve definitely had the experience where I go into a sandwich shop, and I can’t figure out where to wait to order. Like, who are the people that have already ordered, where do I stand. It sounds really simple, but that type of thing can really ruin your experience, because you’re feeling like an idiot and you can’t figure out how to order your sandwich.

So, the kind of equivalent of that in digital products is when somebody buys a product from you and they don’t know how to get it. Like, are they supposed to get an email from you to download or are they going to get a log in, do they need to create a username and password, and then once they do, exactly what page do they click on, and is it something they watch online or is it a video they download. All these things seem really obvious to you because you created the system, like I give them the download link and then they click on it, and then they unzip it. Like you need to tell people, “I’m giving you a link that you’re going to need to unzip. If you don’t know what unzip is, here’s a software where you can do it.”

Here’s an explanation. You really can’t explain too much. Even if people already know, it doesn’t make them feel like an idiot. It really never hurts. It just makes them feel taken care of, and makes them feel like you’ve thought out this whole process. And if they have any question, you’ve answered it for them upfront. So think about what your customers and clients do to receive your product or service, and think about how you can explain it in what to you seems like excruciating detail so that people cannot miss a single step that people can feel like they know what’s going on, they know exactly what to do, and then they don’t get mad at you because they had to wait or run for an hour when they could have just waited in line and gotten their prescription.

[0:03:14] End of Audio

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.


  1. Gosh so sorry you had to wait an hour and half, Laura, but I really enjoyed the intuition here. Cannot be too specific! I often wonder for instance if people who visit my blog know where to go and whether the navigation is intuitive enough. For a pro blogger, perhaps yes but to those who have never seen a blog, I am still wondering. Food for thought. Thanks!

  2. I am a very patient person, but still, I don’t think I would’ve waited that long before either asking again or walking away. I am amazed with how patient you are!

    I’ve bought information products / courses and got confused with the process before. A lot of times, I am directed to a PayPal page, paid it, and wondered, “now what?” Does it get sent to the email I entered, or the email address that my PayPal account is attached to? Do I get a file sent to me, or do I get a link? How long are my log-in stuff active? Should I download everything right away, or do I have a guarantee that those things will stay on the server and I can download them whenever I want as long as I have my account info? A lot of times, those things aren’t made clear.

    When a customer buys things, he or she is most likely to be happy to be making the purchase. It would be unwise for vendors to ruin the experience towards the very end by being unclear.
    .-= Kelvin Kao´s last blog ..Twitter =-.

  3. Hey Laura,

    You know the crazy thing is, there is no harm in “being too specific” and there is no harm in teaching your employees about the value of the customer experience. Time after time I watch companies do little things to neglect their precious customers…sigh

    I catch things like this all the time and my friends have to suffer because I talk about it for the next 24 hours. :)

    To give my friends a break, I now make a YouTube video when I see something that irks me. I call it “impromptu marketing”. It looks here like you’ve done the same.

    Keep going,

  4. I love your point that really getting all the details sorted out and explaining things in excruciating detail makes your customers feel cared for–that’s so true. And, it’s also true that a frustrating experience that makes me feel like an idiot is a pretty darn good way to ensure I won’t be back.

    There’s a sneaky benefit (for me) of when people are really detailed about the steps involved–I assume you’ve sold a lot more than when the process is confusing. Because, obviously, your attention to detail either indicates you take super care of your customers, or you’ve gotten a lot of questions and want to nip them in the bud as much as possible. So, CVS and sandwich shops everywhere: if you want to seem more popular, be more specific ;-).

  5. Laura –

    Great point. Specifics and great customer service does make me feel cared about. As a “valued” consumer and having been raised in Texas (where hospitality comes in truckloads), I will actually overpay for great customer service, because I just don’t come across it too much living in LA.

    What I do tend to do if I’m not getting the info. I need or the customer service I feel I deserve, I will actually start making the employee unconfortable, rather than stand there feeling awkward myself. I will start listing out in detail the things they should have covered – not in a mean, angry way, just in a “bet you won’t forget to give great customer service the next time” kinda way. We are usually best friends by the end of the transaction. It also seems to bring them out of what ever “mood” they’ve allowed themselves to fall into and brightens their day. :)

    Thanks again for sharing and I look forward to your next post.


  6. Thanks Laura,

    Your CVS video is a good reminder of the many forms or faces of customer care. When you are focusing on issues like great content, bounce rate, time on the site, attrition, and driving traffic … it’s easy to forget, “duhhh”, keep it simple and be informative.

    Great piece thanks!

  7. Great points, Laura! Thanks!

  8. Yvonne Padgett says:

    Thanks Laura! Great input and timely for me. I’m just now doing the Alpha Launch of my website and I have put so much info, tips, hints, faq’s all over the place that I think I’m being way too verbose…and that will be annoying to people. I want to be helpful, not annoying.

    One funny thing about it though… I created a “Rules Before Registering” link found on the registration page and people were enrolling but not reading it, so I then changed the title to “Rules Before Registering – Please Read” and people enrolled but only 2 people read it. And my web designer said “be careful, the one sure way to get people to NOT read it is to say “please read”. LOL!! So then I decided maybe the “rules” was bugging them so I changed the name to “Before Registering – Please Read” and I put a link to it somewhere else with a lighthearted comment about reading it. Hopefully that will work, because the few issues my Alpha group have had with my system are all covered on that page! But I’ll keep trying to give them info anyway cuz I’m the person who has a lot of questions on other people’s sites and I’m always wishing I had more info! Yvonne

  9. Good video!

    Your comments reminded me too that people learn in different ways. Some like video, some like to read, some like to listen to plain audio. If there was a sign that listed directions and showed a process diagram along with the person that you talked to maybe the problem could have been avoided.

    I will work to take your advice to not only explain in detail but to use different media, too.

    Love you & your content!


  10. Laura,

    Very timely post!

    People expect effective customer service, especially from digital providers! If you teach about deploying technology, your own company technology for customer service better work really well!!

    Witness the withering feedback given below from “The Forum” at (Guru to the Guru’s) Rich Shefren’s recently launched “Founders Club” from his famous company Strategic Profits. Ouch!! I’m amazed that no one from the company is even monitoring this feedback.

    Anybody else experiencing poor customer service from big name Internet Marketers who charge an arm and and a leg for their “programs”? It’s next to impossible to find genuine, unbiased (i.e., NOT from self-serving affiliates) reviews of these expensive products. No wonder the FTC is clamping down on these super-wealthy, snake oil salesmen. Their systems are optimized to take your money but sub-optimized to provide service once you have the goods!

    Finally, ever tried to get your money back from a purportedly “100% risk-free guaranteed” program? It’s a total joke. One click to buy and weeks of unanswered e-mails that delay refunds as long as possible before being legally threatened.

    Why is ethical internet marketing an oxymoron?? More power to Social Media to help spread the word and get rid of these slimes.

    (Sorry for the rant! But I am so tired of being burned with loss of both dreams, money and time.)

    — Carli

    # today, 02:51
    Send PM
    Have sent numerous support tickets and no reply, plus I see many peoples questions unanswered in this forum! where is the support? shame on you guys!, you offer such great quality content but poor support, is Strategic Profits having technical difficulties that they are not telling us about? if so keep us in the loop, no1 business rule, look after your customers with outstanding support! cant say that is happening at the moment.

    Keep up the great quality content and step up the support!

    Anybody else care to share?

    Edited today, 02:56

    # today, 03:21
    Send PM


    To me they seem to have way too many technical difficulties for a company coaching technology aspects of business. I feel doing so damages their credibility.

    Like you I am frustrated with that. The quality of content is great, but their quality of execution stinks at time. Based on the quality of their materials, I expect much better quality on execution. I like what they are trying to do, but they need to try harder. Their (lack of) attention to detail is not consistent with the quality of info they provide.

    It might have been Todd Brown that summed it up well on a recent Founders Club call (when I raised the issue): “we get these great ideas but we don’t think it through enough before we launch them”.

    My experience is that these forum’s won’t get answers from Strategic Profits. Perhaps they were intended for Peer to peer help / masterminding re: content of the programs.

    They only way I’ve reliably and more-or-less consistently gotten support from Strategic Profits (SP) is by submitting trouble tickets. I say “more or less” because time to respond varies considerably from ticket to ticket. I’ve gotten response as fast as under an hour and as slow as taking a few days on original opening of ticket, as fast as within 24 hours on follow-up comments to already open tickets, as slow as 2-3 weeks on follow-up comments to open tickets. To me the most frustrating scenarios have been when I get a response like “it should be fixed within 1-2 days” and a week later it’s still broken. Over promise and under deliver is not a recipe for customer satisfaction.

    I’m also posting those issues in these forums not to get answers from SP, but to 1. try to learn how widespread the problems are (am I the only person experiencing problem x, do others have a workaround), 2. to lead by example encouraging others to use the support system to report any and all problems, and 3. to use the forums as another venue to keep up the pressure on SP to get their act together.

    I really want SP to succeed, I really like their content, but at some point their quality problems are going to drive away business (if that’s not already happening).

  11. Laura, you know how sometimes when you are having a problem, and you are mulling it over, and not coming up with a solution, the universe might throw a little hint your way? Well, I have to tell you that this video was a terrific hint to a solution I’ve been searching for.

    I’ve been having some challenges with a client about managing their expectations on a project, and what I’m taking away from your video is that it might be helpful to give more of a detailed explanation to them about what will happen one step down the road, 10 steps, 100 steps, etc… Even though this was all laid out in the original scope of the project, it makes sense to weave this into the day-to-day workings of the relationship.

    Thanks as always for your insight! –Michelle

  12. Hey look my gravatar worked! :) I learned that little trick from The Dash ;)
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..So, What Is This ‘Artisanal’ Thing Anyway? =-.

  13. I was reworking a landing page for my book today when I remembered what you said in this video. So I put a big “Order Here” sign with an arrow on the page. Fingers crossed it helps. Thanks for the tip!

  14. James Humphrey says:

    Such great information – Its strange how when your in the outside world you can relate it back to our online business. To many times do I go to a blog and its so confusing you don’t know where to go.

    We are all including myself are use to being lead or told what to do. We as readers appreciate it when we are told to go here and read this or go there and click this. It cuts down on the confusion and in my mind is customer service at its best.

    Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Great video and thanks for sharing it.

  15. I hate cvs, always long lines!