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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?