Give the Grumps to the Competition

No More Grumpy Employees
Let your competition have the grumpy people that hurt your business with bad customer service.

American Public Media’s Marketplace ran a Freakonomics Radio piece this week about customer service. As is true for most of their work, it was entertaining and made a great point. This week I also spoke with a long-time friend who is working with Sheetz, the Pennsylvania-based convenience store chain, as they aggressively expand in North Carolina. Both experiences had a similar theme. When you’re talking about employee quality, you get what you pay for. Pay more to get rid of the grumps.

The Marketplace story makes a simple, really an intuitive point. If employers spend more to attract and retain quality employees, they will take better care of the customers, helping beat the competition with service that drives customer loyalty. Costco and Trader Joe’s are two examples. I would add Sheetz to the list.

As my friend was describing the Sheetz environment, he explained that all employees in the organization, right down to the part-time cashier working a few hours a week, earn a bonus based on the store’s performance. If the unit hits its goals, all share in the rewards. Performance above goal juices the bonus and all get more. Deliver the goods and get more green in your pocket. Simple! The plan has created a culture where the entire team cares about sales, service and profitability. My friend also shared that they have been able to attract great employees from their competitors, hurting the other business twice with people and market share victories.

Compare that to other companies that view payroll as a cost that should be reduced whenever possible. These are the places where people work when they have no other option, but quickly abandon when better opportunities arise.

If you own or manage a business, there is a lesson to be learned. If you care anything at all about your customer’s experience, better employees matter. They will stay longer, learn more, provide better service and build a loyal customer base. When viewed as a cost to be minimized, employees at the low-wage employers will deliver quality commensurate with their pay. Business leaders, make a decision. Do you want the grumps on your team, or your competitor’s?

Bill Florin writes on business and entrepreneurism when not busy helping clients with their career marketing needs at Resu-mazing Services Company.

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Sorry! Too Bad!

I’ve got the kids today while my wife works. Laundry, feeding, reprimanding and the very necessary trip to the supermarket are all on the to-do list. We can’t make it through the hurricane with a few almonds and some old breakfast cereal that nobody likes, can we? Of course not, so make the list and check it twice knowing full well that some critical item (milk?) will be forgotten anyway.

Shoes on. Seatbelts fastened. Numerous in-transit requests concerning candy and other junk denied. Park. Grab a wet cart in the rain. Run across the lot. Put on the bargain hunter hat and get busy. That’s where the real story begins. This could have been a training video on how to discourage customers.

Endcap displays are normally where you find the deals. All of the important things you need, all on sale. Not today. Today (in the early afternoon), every endcap was set for tomorrow’s ad with today’s full prices. The guy in the tie said, “Yes sir, our sales start tomorrow.” Obviously this is for their convenience and not the customers’. Those ends all looked wonderful, and gave me lots of reasons not to buy. Maybe I will get that stuff tomorrow – at the warehouse club. Sorry! Too bad!

$12.50 for a can of Folgers? Uh, is this Starbucks and you didn’t change the sign? The same stuff was $8.00 at Target last week. No coffee for me. Sorry! Too bad! By the way, what is that logo that Stop & Shop (and Giant, another Ahold USA brand) uses? It reminds me of customers fainting and falling over backwards from their prices.

If a company is going to have the cast iron determination to shake every last nickel from you with their prices, you could hope for a great checkout, right? Maybe, but not today. As everyone is shopping hard to prepare for the big storm, there was one express line, two regular lines staffed by humans, and a row of self-serve stations. Ugh.

The guy watching the self-serve was busy writing some secret notes on a tiny piece of paper while customers juggled through the maddening interface of these checklanes that were likely designed by the same fellas who came up with the Yugo. The systems look like the Frankenstein of the IT world: a scanner here, a screen there, another screen for your credit card and yet another screen where you sign your name. Don’t forget the light-up slot for your coupons (that doesn’t light up) and the hockey goal-esque red and green flashing lights bolted atop this monstrosity. Does red mean goal? Do I get a discount?

Secret-note man came to help for a moment and bagged a few items. Until he had to go back to his secret note. All the while my kids are banging on the Redbox machine like retirees at the nickel slots while I force sweaty frozen foods into plastic bags and hope to finish my task before the next customer’s OJ squashes my bread. Sorry.

What are my points in sharing my “what I did on my day off” story? Don’t show your clients and customers what you can’t or won’t do for them. Justify your prices with the quality and service you deliver. Exceed your customers’ expectations. And let your spouse do the shopping.