One day a woman went grocery shopping. She and her husband, a doctor, had just moved into town. One of the first things she did was go to the bank to open a checking account. Armed with temporary checks, she went to the store to buy a few of the basic necessities they would need for their new home.
At the check out line, the checker refused to accept her check because the woman had an out-of-state drivers license. The woman asked the checker to get the manager. The manager said it was store policy not to accept checks from people with out-of-state.
The woman tried to explain that she and her husband had just moved into the area, that she had just opened up the account at the local bank and had not yet had a chance to get a new drivers license. The manager simply told her that until she had a local I.D., he would not accept her checks. She walked away vowing to never come back.
It was only a matter of days before the corporate offices of this grocery store chain found out about the problem and went to work to try and salvage the situation.
Letters and phone calls of apology were issued. Did it work? Yes, but this problem shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
The manager was too focused on the operational aspect of the business, and not the customer’s needs. This is a classic example of how company policy and inflexible attitudes of employees cause lost customers. It has been the goal of this company to create a set of guidelines for their managers and employees to follow. But, they are still referred to as policies. They might as well be called rules.
In a customer driven or focused environment this would not have happened. But, until employees recognize that they have the ability to make decisions based on the circumstance, they will always follow the “rules.”
One word that is often used (even overused) is empowerment. Employees need to know they are empowered to make good decisions to help create great customer relations. And, it is important that there is a consistent effort to foster the empowerment culture, and that every employee, from top executives to virtually every area of a business know, understand and participate the culture.
Recently I witnessed a salesperson trying to issue a credit to a customer that had been mishandled. However when he went to get his manager’s approval, he was told he couldn’t issue the credit.
The company claimed to be creating the empowerment culture, but it was obvious that while one employee believed it, his manager did not.
First, the employee should not have had to go to his manager for approval. Second, even if the salesperson did have to call, the manager should have backed his employee’s decision. If there was a problem, the manager could have discussed it with him at a later, more appropriate time.
Here are a few quick thoughts and ideas to become a customer driven organization.
Hire right - The attitude is more important than the skill. You can train the skill. This is what companies like the Ritz Carlton and Nordstrom’s are so famous for.
Constantly train - Even if you spend five minutes every few days on something new, it is constant training and reinforcement of your business and customer philosophies.