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“Have The Courage To Start With The Customer”


This was the one piece of advice Groupon’s ex-CEO shared with his staff in his resignation to his employees last week. The full quote of the memo reads:


“If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers.”


This can be true for employees too – don’t let the numbers get the best of you, your employees, or your customers. It’s a no win situation.


This quote led me to thinking about experiences others have shared in the workplace that speak to this very quote. These are instances in which data seems to be overriding what is in the best interest of customers and employees:


1. One retail chain sent a memo to its staff saying that it’s taking them too long to clock out once their shift is over. The “policy” is that all employees clock out within 5 minutes of leaving their register – data shows it is taking an average of 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Management stated the employees would be watched to make sure the 30 seconds is shaved off their timings. Never mind that the time clock is in the very back of the store, and employees are required to put away returns once they are off the register before they can leave.


2. I was a customer in a store recently and stopped an employee walking by to ask for help. The employee said, “I’m so sorry I can’t help you. I’m getting back from lunch and not on the clock. I can get in trouble if they see me helping you off the clock.” What? I can see the logic, but again, it would take two seconds for the employee to answer my question. As a customer, this not only sends the message to me that employees can’t help me if they’re not “on the clock” but it also made me wonder what kind of environment the employees are working in.


3. A grocery chain employee shared that their location keeps registered understaffed to keep “numbers down.” As a result, customer complaints have risen and long lines ensued. Staff and customers shared this insight with management, but it fell on deaf ears. Meeting numbers was more important than customer satisfaction.


4. An employee with a company truck recently shared a story of how the company has installed GPS systems on each company owned vehicle to track driving time, etc. Definitely a good concept to ensure that staff are where they are supposed to be, not using the company vehicle for excessive personal purposes, and the like, but imagine the employee’s surprise when he received an angry call from the boss about an “unexplained deviation” from his route.


He was working near his child’s school when they called to say she was running a high fever and needed to go home. His wife was at work an hour away and could not leave to pick the child up. He alerted his supervisor that he would be stopping to pick his child up and take her home, which was all in close proximity to the job site. This was approved, but the boss didn’t see eye to eye with this and offered a lecture on personal use of the vehicle. While definitely understood, this was an extreme case by an employee who has never once broken this rule and did ask for permission beforehand. The boss explained that they need to keep “with the numbers” on vehicle use and expenditures, and he was written up for his “deviant behavior.”


All of these examples show that data is overriding decisions that are in the best interest for the employees and customers. Times are tough, no doubt, and everyone is trying to do as much as possible with as little as possible, but at what cost?




New Trend: Debrief Mystery Shoppers


It’s not new, but we’re seeing it pop up more and more in the mystery shopping industry – clients are requesting a debriefing session with shoppers. This typically involves a representative from the mystery shopping provider to talk with the shopper after an evaluation has been completed to get more subjective information about the experience. Sometimes the interviews are recorded, and other times the data is compiled into a report for the client.


We had a project once for an assisting living company that offered a wide range of services and facilities. They requested that one shopper conduct all of the evaluations over a three month period, from phone calls to onsite shops. After each evaluation, the shopper submitted a report as is typically done. The twist? Once the project was complete, the shopper went to meet with the client’s board of directors to offer additional insight into their operations and customer experience. This is definitely outside the norm and not typically done when debriefing is considered, but in this instance the client wanted in depth information outside of the parameters of the evaluation itself.


Why do this? Clients are realizing that shoppers are also their typical customer, and want to get more out of their program than just the operational data that is collected.


While it can’t be done with every shop that you do, there are certain cases in which you might want to consider a post-shop debriefing:


  • New locations have recently opened and are incorporated into the shopping program
  • Concerns with performance in a specific employee, location, district, or region
  • Launch of a new service or store concept
  • Obtaining subjective data to pinpoint correlations between exceptionally high and low performing locations


There is an additional cost when debriefing is incorporated, but the cost is well worth it if you need that additional information to make decisions regarding business operations.



Walgreens Goes Back to College


Businesses realize the importance of great employees for their bottom line, and it looks like Walgreens is stepping it up to ensure that they have best in class staff.


The company recently launched “Walgreens University,” a corporate training program that hopes to enhance the entire culture for this drug store retailer.


The goal is to “lead its industry in classroom and online programming that engages, educates and develops team members for rewarding long-term careers.” With over 100 courses available as well as a technologically advanced facility featuring a mock drug store, and potential for college credits for those who attend, the concept is slated to be highly successful.


This is an interesting development – Walgreens is seeing the value of investing money – and this is a significant spend – on their employees, knowing that it all starts with their front line.


McDonald’s offers a similar program, called “Hamburger Univeristy,” that has been in existence for some time now and also offers high level training and focus on the customer experience.


Not all companies can afford this, of course, but it’s something to consider. Take a look at your company’s budget and try to find unique, cost effective ways of more effectively educating and training your staff to ensure that your service levels remain strong. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated training facility; enhanced training programs and techniques will prove successful as well.