28. Jul. 2017

Is Customer Service Dead and Buried?

by Carlos Paez

It seems like it when visiting retail stores these days.  When I visit big box stores, I either can’t find anyone to help me, or if I’m lucky enough to find someone, I am treated like I’m being a nuisance.  I want to ask…. who’s the customer here???   

Has the customer been forgotten?

Today, I went to my local big box store to buy a few cans of “no salt added” black beans and was unsure where to find them, so I approached the only soul I could find.  He was stocking shelves, and told me where I could find them. I went to the location and unfortunately, the shelf was empty.  My Lean mind was fantasizing of a KANBAN system to prevent this when I noticed another store employee, and I asked if she could check if there was stock in the back. She looked at me like “Are you kidding me?” and said something I could not decipher (not sure I wanted to know).   

I started walking back to the isle where the beans should have been, turned around, and she was gone.  Again, I looked for someone to help me and noticed some other employees in the distance.  But frankly, I knew I would not be any luckier than the first time.  Their body language said it all.

So, I thought no black beans for me today.  

I then spotted a young man who wore a vest with 30 insignias that looked liked battle medals.  He was on his break carrying a drink and his lunch, and noticed my disappointment.  We made eye contact and he asked me what he could help me with.  I was reluctant and in fact discouraged him from helping me.   I said “You are on your lunch break, thank you. It is no big deal”.  He would not have any of it, and asked: “What do you need?”  He solved my lunch dilemma when he reached for his scanner and found some beans.  I thanked him, and mentioned his fully decorated vest.  He said he earned his insignias with hard work.  I told him he has places to go and encouraged him to keep it up!

He is the exception.  Should we settle for this – having one or two shining stars? How do we get employees to act the way this young man does?

We all know customers are not just those who pay the bill; there are also internal customers - the next process.  The same apathy I experienced in the big box store also happens between internal groups within organizations.  

I have a client who has an employee I’ll call Joe.  Joe is great at working with people and delivers training and facilitates their KAIZEN™ events.  You can ask him for anything and he is there for you.  He smiles and is cheerful.  I asked him how he does it?  How come he is as helpful and cheerful as he is?  He responded, “I learned to be this way”.  

The truth is, Joe was not always this way.  Ever since he started participating in KAIZEN™ and the Lean transformation began, he feels his voice is heard.  His ideas are considered, and implemented as part of his involvement.  Jeff is a regular participant in Daily Kaizens and Accountability Meetings.  He told me he is a “transformed man”.  He is not the only one “transformed” – many others at the site now “feel the change”.

To motivate employees to think customer first, you could look for a certain type of person. There are some “naturals” out there.  But you can also do it by empowering employees and capturing their heart.

I would like to hear from you: What do you do to achieve high customer service levels (internal or external) and how do you capture the hearts of your employees?  Are they involved in Kaizen?  Or, are they forgotten? 

Are they willing to get that can of beans?

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