Baby AckermansAlthough the era of ‘bigger is better’, is not coming to an end any time soon, there is a real challenge for the big corporations as oppossed to the little guys out there.
Today’s customers are becoming more an more demanding, in the world where more and more seems to revolve around the individual. When customers come to your establishment to buy something or for a service, they understand that the business is there to meet ‘their’ wants and needs. Entrepreneurial companies and startups understand this and they bend over backwards to make the customer feel welcome and pampered. Often than not bigger and better companies loose their customers due to the lack of connection with the customer.
This past weekend my wife and my mother-in-law went to buy an expensive (according to me) pram and car seat combo (known as a “travel system”) for the baby. They set out for Baby Ackermans at the local shopping mall. As they were browsing around, they found a travel system that interested them. They greeted the salesclerk who, avoiding all eye contact, swiftly sidestepped them, and were forced to follow him around as he made small talk with other clerks. Eventually their pleas for assistance succeeded in getting the clerk to slightly incline his head with a look on his face that said, “What do you want?” He had yet to speak a word. My wife beckoned him over to where the travel systems were kept and started to ask him about the various features of the product. The clerk looked as though the travel system in question had just dropped in from outer space, and he no more knew how to operate that product than I could fly a rocketship. His answers were no more than a word, if a word would suffice.
Still they were interested in buying the product (it was on sale) and when they asked to do so, they were informed that there was no stock. “When, prey tell, would more stock be coming?” they asked. The response from the clerk was “Maybe on Monday, maybe not.” Ever persistent, my wife asked to leave her phone number, and be contacted when the stock was replaced. The clerk shouted across the store to another clerk behind the counter, waved them over with a hand motion, and my wife left her cell number on a blank piece of paper. The exchange with this second clerk was also conducted wordlessly. The whole exchange made them feel as though by their presence they were a burden to the staff at the store, and they vowed that even if the new travel system did come on Monday, they would not buy from that shop. Two customers willing to part with R2,000 slipped away and nobody seemed to care.
The point here is very clear, although the company in question might pride itself on its values on customer service, it cannot guarantee that frontline staff carries them out. Stories like the one above abound and they are often told and retold. The challenge for the big guys is to inject the same energy and desire to connect with the customer as is often found in the startup ventures. In the same way that customers don’t want to be treated as a number, employees are also longing for the same attention. Ideally each branch needs to be run as if it were a startup with as much energy and desire to satisfy every customer.
That kind of shift cannot be a directive from headquarters but a function of each local management team….. Hey, what am I doing, giving solutions and stuff? Isn’t that your job or something? Whatevah!

TomorrowToday Global