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Your Customer Should Be Responsible For Fixing The Problem?

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I got an interesting response to my column last month about the saga of trying to pay for a newspaper at a grocery store. If you didn’t read it, here’s the recap: I’ve bought the same newspaper at a grocery store a number of times. After many pleas, the newspaper still hasn’t been added to the store’s point of sale system, so when you scan it, the system doesn’t recognize the item. It’s a huge waste of time that happens over and over and over.

I’ve pleaded with a number of employees to fix it and nothing has happened.

One reader comment that struck me is that it’s up to me to do more, as a customer, that I should have sought out a manager to fix the situation.

I’m sorry, but if that’s the way you’re operating your business, you’ve got problems.

Two words come to mind when I hear stuff like this: empowerment and initiative. Empowerment, meaning, give your employees the leeway to actually fix problems, think for themselves and reward it. And initiative, as in, does your employee possess the initiative to hear a customer’s problem, the desire to fix it and the will to make it happen?

An article by Anthony L. Emerson in a trade magazine called “Credit Union Times,” put it succinctly: Employee empowerment is “the process of enabling an employee to think, behave, act, react and control their work in more autonomous ways, as to be in control of one’s own destiny.”

I’m a big believer that when someone calls you with a problem, even if it’s not “your department,” you now own the problem. Tag, you’re it! Yes, you might have been on your lunch break when you took the call. But now it’s your issue. And it’s up to you and only you to see that problem through until the solution. It doesn’t mean you necessarily need to know the answer, but are you motivated to figure out who can help the customer and get them the information they need.

There’s a good reason to practice up on this customer service stuff. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term “Millennials” or “Generation Y.” Depending on who you talk to, they were born in the latter 1970s all the way to the early 2000s. They’re an economic force to be reckoned with and they expect almost every transaction to be an experience.

They will not tolerate BS. They will not tolerate bad service. In the face of it, they may do one of two things: Either vaporize in terms of their relationship to your business or jump on social media and tell everyone just how bad your service is.

Trust me, these are roads you don’t want to go down.


About Author

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips, AAP, joined Babcox Media in 2008. He is Editor of Counterman magazine and managing editor of Prior to joining Babcox, Mark worked for more than 13 years in the newspaper industry, and edited several newspapers in Ohio and Boston, Mass. He is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University. He received his Automotive Aftermarket Professional (AAP) designation from Northwood University. He recently covered trade shows in Taipei and Frankfurt.