During my recent visit to a fairly well known department store, I overheard a manager conduct, what appeared to be a routine meeting with their customer service team. After patting the team on their back with praises, reiterating the important value of the customer and taking accountability to meet the needs of their customer, the meeting concluded with a mini-pep rally of chants and cheers.
I was fairly impressed with the manager’s conduct; the staff appeared very engaged and enthusiastic and I must admit, even I was convinced of how highly valued I was to the retailer, as a customer. Little did I know that a few minutes later, this value would be demonstrated to me.
I had two identical products in my hand, which were only different in size but had a price difference I could not explain. This seemed like a fairly simple issue that someone in that department could clarify and I can get on with my day.
I approached the customer service specialist within the department (who just returned from their meeting) with my inquiry. The “specialist” took the products, looked at the tags, the brand and indicated she had no idea why there is a price difference and advised me to purchase both items and return the one that doesn’t fit. When I indicated that this does not in fact address my issue, she suggested I ask front cash as she did not know why there is a price difference. This interaction took approximately three minutes and I was pawned off to the next department. At that moment, I wondered what changed between the highly energetic staff meeting and my encounter with this staff member..
My next point of contact, the employee at check out, advised me to go back and ask the department the reason for a price difference, as this individual didn’t have an explanation for me either. When I mentioned that I had already done that and was told to come speak with the person at check out, I was met with a very shocking response. The cashier blatantly told me that the department was “dumb” for sending me to her and there is nothing she can do and continued to waste an additional few minutes of my time by scanning each item to demonstrate the price difference. I was advised to speak to customer service.
Feeling extremely annoyed by now, I could have simply left all my items and walked away, but now I was just curious how this small issue, which could have been addressed at the first point of contact, will be handled by a third person. How do two employees, who seemed highly engaged in a meeting about company values, the customer and taking accountability, miss the opportunity to meet simple expectations of their customer?
Through one phone call (to the same department, where my experience began, I might add), customer service addressed my inquiry very swiftly. I thanked her for the prompt service and proceeded to give her a synopsis of my experience. Her simple response to me was a courteous smile and thank you but her body language basically indicated she was ready to move on to the next “highly valued” customer.
I left the department store disillusioned and definitely questioned the effectiveness of the daily meeting, pep rallies and value chants.
Being in the service business, I realize that at times it is a great challenge to ensure your processes, procedures and interactions with your customers reflect your organization’s core values. Moreover, how does a leader assess whether their front line understands the core values of the organization is committed to delivering them consistently to their customers.
Regular meetings with your team are extremely important, but equally important is how the messaging is delivered and subsequently reinforced continuously. Company chants to reiterate core values are important in motivating a team, but how is the demonstration of these values monitored, measured and rewarded?
Maybe it’s time to walk through the front lines of your organization to observe the interactions with your customer and ensure what you preach is being practiced.