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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Now that's customer service!

Shopping at BJ’s Wholesale Club recently there was one particular frozen roll product I couldn’t find. I asked one of the food demonstrators, in the area the rolls are usually found, if she had any ideas. She knew what I was talking about and directed me to a couple of possible locations. I checked the areas with no success and moved on, figuring they didn’t sell the rolls any more. While I was in a different part of the store, the lady I had asked for help approached me. She was pushing a shopping cart with several selections of frozen rolls. She had collected the products and tracked me down in the store to see if any of her choices were what I had sought. I had never experienced such a determined attempt by a store employee to ensure customer satisfaction. Directing me to the correct aisle is one thing, but to gather examples and seek out the customer…Amazing!

The store manager had to be told about this employee’s exemplary effort. I guess all the manager hears is negative comments from customers because her obvious reaction when approached was, “What now.” My experience was explained and you could see her expression change. Although a little more enthusiasm could have been displayed. She still had a, What do you want me to do, attitude, making me verbalize that I wanted to document the employee’s actions. The manager directed me to the customer service desk, where I was given a form to fill out and mail in. At my expense and effort. Realizing the same could be accomplished through the BJ’s website I chose that route. I hope the compliment was passed through the system to her.

In these types of situations it seems that the manager should have taken more of an interest in customer satisfaction and positive comments towards an employee.  Rather than direct the customer to another station to pick up a form, maybe the manager could retrieve the form, or walked me to the customer service desk. I know it’s probably their system, just felt the warm and fuzzy feeling dissipating.

Solicit feedback and make the customer feel that their voice, positive or negative, is being heard. Take pride in your job and your employees.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Can an interview tell employers everything?

As a business owner, you sometimes have to make quick hiring decisions to fill a need. Whether it is a big project that was just landed or to fill an unexpected vacancy, you should always stick to your hiring process. Be diligent and know whom you are hiring.

I recently had a client that hired a skilled tradesman. The client conducted the normal process- interview, references, resume, not much beyond that. The work required the employee to have his own transportation, tools, etc. and that the employee would be left unsupervised at job sites. For this story we’ll call the employee George.

After a report that George did not arrive on the job site one morning, the employer learned that George had been arrested over the weekend.  The employer now had to ensure other employees completed the day’s work, figure out what happened to George, and whether he’d be back to work. We can’t control everything our employees do in their personal lives, but if you have a thorough screening process you can gain valuable insight into the employee’s character and propensity for behavior that could bring embarrassment to your company or termination for the employee.

In this case, the employer learned after the fact that George had a few things going on that could affect job performance. George had a drug addiction that caused financial and family issues. Family issues being that George had finalized a divorce and was behind on alimony and child support payments. Under Maryland law, “deadbeat dads” have their driver’s license suspended until child support is paid. Additionally, there was a warrant for George’s arrest resulting from being in arrears on child support. Over the weekend, George was stopped for speeding. A record check exposed the open warrant and suspended license. George also had too much to drink. He was arrested and his truck impounded. While George was out of jail by Monday morning, he lost his truck and tools to the captivity of the impound lot.

It may sound like I am overdramatizing events for the purpose of this post, but George’s predicament actually happened. Once you go down this path bad things have a way of accumulating. A worse situation is when someone like George shows up for work on Monday after an extremely busy weekend and is driving your company vehicle or on the showroom floor when the police catch up with him.

The point being, know whom you are hiring. Doing a few simple things could have saved this employer the personnel headaches associated with someone like George. Drug testing can show current or recent use. Driving record checks will not only show the employer the employee’s driving habits but if there are any government sanctions on the license. Thorough interviews and reference checks go a long way also. You can go beyond a simple interview and stay well within your rights as an employer. 

Having thorough hiring practices also come into play in the home. Before you hire someone to work around the house or be alone in your home, conduct a job interview. Make sure they are properly licensed. Ask for references. If it is long term employment, conduct the additional checks needed to make you comfortable in your decision to hire the person.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I need to take this...

The line for coffee was four deep. The man in front of me, having nothing to do for the next minute pulls out his cell phone. Which is fine, we’ve all done it. What happened as he approached the counter is what was truly fascinating. As the line moved forward he continued on his phone, his legs automatically moving him forward. The person in front of him ordered and stepped away. This gentleman then took a step forward, as if to order, but just stood there.  Engrossed in his phone activity for a full thirty seconds without even raising his head. I finally leaned around him to let him know that it was his turn to order.
We’ve all seen people steady talking while trying to checkout. Not paying attention to the cashier and what they are doing. So engrossed in their conversation that they couldn’t operate the credit card swipe machine. Experts have addressed the distractive nature of the use of cell phones and the lack of consideration given to others. Co-workers speaking loudly on their phones, playing games, on the internet; customers holding up lines. It has become an everyday occurrence.
Restaurants can refuse service. Some, in fact, have added cell phones to their “No shoes, no shirt-no service” signs. Others have embraced their connected customers. The owners feeling that they are lucky that the customer chose their establishment, why turn anyone away.
How is the office any different? There is very little that you cannot accomplish from your phone. If employees are not making or receiving personal calls, there is any number of distractive activities that one can do on their phone. Text messaging has made it even easier to have a “conversation” with someone. How much time do workers lose while texting? Maybe you don’t want to do the math.
Phone manufacturers are now advertising how their phones can increase productivity on the job. Making a case for the use of phones in the workplace. In June 2011, Qumu, a leading business video platform provider, conducted an online survey by Harris Interactive*. The survey found a majority of online Americans agree that companies should allow employees to use whatever mobile device they choose for work related tasks. The survey also revealed that online Americans will take more risks with what they do on their mobile device.  Some of the activities include: 
52% - Look for another primary job
47% - Visit an online dating website
46% - Look for a side job
37% - Research embarrassing illness/condition
33% - Shop for lingerie/underwear
20% - Investigate plastic surgery options
Regarding use of mobile devices during meetings, the survey found that employees would use covert ways of peeking at their mobile device, while a lesser percentage will just look at the device in plain view. The favored methods of sneaking a look at a device during a meeting included:
47% - Hiding their mobile device under the table
42% - Excusing themselves to go to the restroom
35% - Hiding their mobile device in their folders/notebooks/papers
9% - Pretending to tie their shoes
8% - Creating a distraction
For the office environment there is a fine line of over supervising/regulating employees while at the same time maintaining productivity. In the rest of the world, cell phone users need to remember that they are not islands and walk amongst the rest of us.
Retreat into your phone if you must, just don’t hold up the line.