There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun shown brightly, its rays gently massaging you just long enough for you to close your eyes and embrace the feeling before the bitingly cold wind tapped you on your shoulder, reminding you that it was now Winter. Maria was in a good mood. It was her first day working after the Thanksgiving holiday and she felt reinvigorated. She had worked overtime the week before and she smiled to herself as she remembered how happy her children were to receive the gifts she brought home for them. Nothing fancy, but it made Maria feel good to be able to provide for her family. She was looking forward to work……
It’s that time of year again
Grandma needed new winter clothes and so I sucked it up and took her to Wal-Mart yesterday. Not that I particularly enjoy the place but I can usually find what I need when I’m too lazy to go to the Galleria or don’t feel like waiting 3 days for Amazon.com to ship.
Not knowing where anything is, and especially lacking knowledge of where the Women’s clothing was, we asked the only employee in the area to help us. She was very patient as Grandma took her from place to place, telling her “no, that’s not what I’m looking for.” A less gentle soul would have taken the opportunity to answer that imaginary phone call telling her that they she was needed immediately in isle 4. But not Maria. She was a nice lady.
As I sat there waiting for grandma to make up her mind, I noticed a man, who we will call Frank, walk up and ask Maria to step aside for a moment. “What are you doing?” he asked, in the same tone of voice that you would use to try and stop someone before they started running naked through an elementary school. “This is not your area.”
Not wanting to let Maria’s kindness go to waste, I immediately interjected and told the manager that we had specifically asked her to help us find something. It was of no use. Frank (not real name) didn’t let his opportunity to rule over a subordinate go to waste.
You see Frank, if it weren’t for customers like granny and me, you would be out of a job. That’s why they hired you and Maria; because you know where the stuff is that we are looking for. When I ask someone where something is, I am happy when they go out of their way to help me find it, even if they don’t immediately know where that something is, because it shows that THEY CARE. Want me to go home with that warm and fuzzy feeling of having been satisfied as a customer? Then let Maria do her job.
Isn’t that what a manager is for?
Now I don’t doubt that in some handbook sitting in the trash somewhere it is written that all employees are to stay in their area, yada yada on and on, but that is probably so that they are not all hanging in the back of the store throwing a party. I don’t think it applies in this case, Frank.
What does this mean for the employee and the customer?
Good job ruining Maria’s day. She will probably think twice before going out of her way to help another customer because she knows that you are probably lurking around the corner, waiting for her to go beyond that imaginary line that you call her “area.”
What can I do to stop this from happening in my company?
Be more culturally sensitive and enforce the spirit of a rule and not just the rule itself. Cultural background has an impact on what employees end up doing when they are faced with a choice. Some may believe that it is right to help others no matter the cost while others may have been brought up in a culture where it was expected to follow the rules exactly. Having helpful employees is a valuable intangible asset to your company and its occurrence should be nurtured. Perhaps incorporating these ideas into your managerial training programs will help your business obtain or keep a competitive advantage, because when you piss customers off they are more likely just to stay at home and order online so they don’t have to deal with this kind of nonsense.
84,584 boxes of tissues were bought to wipe away the tears caused by Frank.