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Are Your Employees Representing You Well?

I was wondering what I should blog about today ... and like manna from heaven along came Kit Grant's monthly newsletter. I always get a kick out of Kit's "in your face" style, but most times I am 100% in his corner.

Today's email was another customer service gem. A story of an employee, probably executing on orders from above in an overzealous manner. Obviously it is important that company management train their front line people well, it is very easy for customer relationships to be damaged ... just read this one!

Recently, while standing at the check out counter of a major "big box" retailer, I observed the following interaction between an employee and some customers. The young couple in front of me (hey, at my age, almost everyone is younger but these two were 30 somethings) requested a copy of the store's catalogue. They indicated they were from out of town, about 90 minutes from Calgary and would also like a copy for their neighbor and their mother. The response was "One per customer". In explaining that these other people were interested in seeing the catalogue so they might be better prepared next time they made the journey into Calgary, once again it was "One per customer!". Quickly doing the complex math, the wife said, "Well, there are two of us" upon which the clerk reached under the counter and virtually slapped another copy down repeating loudly now, "One per customer and you've each got one so move on." That's right!!! Move on. (ie. get out, go away, don't bother me anymore, get lost, take your money elsewhere, we have rules here you know, etc.). Ahhh, operations controlling marketing - there's a formula for making your customers happy, ha, ha. Maybe the accounting department should be standing there counting something at the same time, like how much gravy is being put on the meatballs in the cafeteria (incidentally, the food is very good at this store).

What could possibly be more annoying than customers suggesting they may come back or even spread the word about your business? Are we in the business of protecting catalogues or getting more customers? If the catalogues are so precious, then charge for them offering a rebate coupon on the next store purchase. Nah, that would require thought.

Now in fairness to the employee, she is only doing what she's been told to do. Protect the catalogues. We have policies here and who knows what people would be doing with more than one copy. Buying more stuff??? Oh yeah, destroying the environment ... I forgot!
BIG LESSON FOR YOU! What instructions are you giving your front-line people that will either generate more business or drive customers away?

So to Michelle at IKEA in Calgary ... you may be better off taking the next copy of the catalogue and whacking your manager across the side of the head with it! Maybe then he or she would realize what's really important. The company is in business for a reason ... just like any other private sector company ... get and keep customers to make a profit. Incidentally I like IKEA and buy a lot of stuff there but this was just goofy.

When policies and procedures replace common sense, it breeds mediocrity and this employee has caught the disease.

Incidentally, I also asked for a catalogue after my purchase and then hurried out to the parking lot just in time to give the couple the extra copy they had requested. I'm not sure if any of their family will ever shop there again but they were very grateful and maybe I just saved a customer for IKEA after all. If you want to have some fun next time you're in an IKEA store ask for multiple copies of the catalogue they don't want their customers to have. It seems there's a scarcity of these printed advertisements so now their solution is to reduce the number of annoying people who want to give them money.

There's a strategy! Before you laugh, remember they probably had a series of meetings to come up with this plan. Amazing!

Thanks Kit ... a great story, a good lesson and you bailed me out for today's blog!