Article > Opinion

W-H-Y: Three Letters That Explain How We Think


As counter professionals, we are asked numerous questions daily.

By Allen Markowitz & Allan Gerber

As children, we start with a simple question: Why? Why this? Why that?

These three letters combined help explain why our thought process does not accept a statement as fact unless the statement is explained and understood.

As counter professionals, we are asked numerous questions daily. Often these questions seem limitless — questions from customers, questions from suppliers, questions from management. While questions from customers and suppliers are, of course, incredibly important, we are going to focus on management.

Management questions may be about customer service, inventory control, and of utmost importance, sales and profit concerns or issues. Typically, the questions are short and to the point. Why did it take so long to get the part to the customer? Why don’t we have this part in stock? Why are Steve’s Tire (no particular Steve’s Tire) purchases up or down? Why are profit margins up or down? Yes, management should ask why profit margins have increased or decreased; they need to know what is working and what is not. This is the information that promotes new ideas; new marketing programs and monitors our competition. When these questions are asked, it is our job to provide simple, but accurate answers. There’s a saying my friend John used long ago that we still employ today: When asked a question, give the appropriate answer, not an excuse. Believe me, this is a good deal more difficult than it sounds.

Counter professionals are on the front lines communicating with the customers and then reporting to management. The counterpro speaks to the customer sometimes numerous times throughout the day.
What type of management does your company have? Conventional? Store personnel speak directly to management and concerns and issues are discussed and addressed? Yes, questions are answered, but remember, you, the counter professional, have to accept the answer even if sometimes the answer is not what you expected.

In many instances, management is nonchalant. Many times they will hear the question but there is no reaction, sometimes they do not even indicate that they will look into the issue and get back to you. Your position should be to ask, “When can I expect an answer?” Unfortunately, if nothing happens and they do not reply, we become gun shy. We eventually stop asking questions. This is an incredible morale killer, when you or your fellow co-workers stop asking pertinent questions or stop caring about the company.
In recent years, a different style of management has emerged — we call it strip mining management. It’s management without maintaining or replacing the company’s natural resources. Companies usually start by asking employees to do more with less (sound familiar?). Less inventory, fewer support personnel (staff), employees working fewer hours, etc.

These polices are generally put into place due to issues affecting sales and profit. Unfortunately, the lingering question ultimately remaining revolves around the key elements of our businesses: Does the store have necessary personnel to properly service the customer? Does the store have adequate inventory? While there is no question that computer-generated reports are an important and valuable tool in analyzing sales trends and gross profits, they are simply not an acceptable substitute for proper store staffing, proper inventory levels and a well-rounded line of communication between us, the counterpro and management.

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