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Sunday, May 13, 2007

What Happens When Employees are not Empowered Enough to Serve?

To my regular readers, I know I promised another topic but something came up last week and I had to share my experience which I think will help bring more awareness on how service oriented companies should invest in their customer service program. I promise that I will post the next topic ASAP. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this one.

It was a very attractive offer, a copy of Time Magazine special issue on 100 most influential people and a cup of great tasting cappuccino for P110.00. Who can refuse such an offer when the two cost 210 pesos when bought separately. I told my friend Sheila who was in charge of ordering for the gang to avail of the special offer. She was using one of their special cash card issued by the coffee shop. Sheila told the guy manning the counter that we are getting one of those and the guy nodded. Sheila and Mars went back to our table to join in the chatter. Our orders arrived. variety of cakes, Brewed coffee, tea, latte, cappuccino... What, no Magazine? We called the guy who served us to ask for it and he said he'll verify if it was included in the purchase. Sheila reminded him that she specifically ordered for it, he said he'll get back to us. He went to the counter and did some work. As we enjoyed our food and the group's company I noticed that the guy is busy doing other stuffs and not going back to us as he promised. Gege noticed that I'm starting to get a bit upset about it, Sheila looked at the receipt and saw that she was only charged a hundred bucks for the cappuccino which explained the absence of the magazine. She stood up to tell the now unmindful crew that he made a mistake and that she wants him to rectify it. The crew again said he'll get back to her. After a couple of minutes, the crew approached our table with someone who looks like his supervisor apologizing that they cannot correct the transaction because the offer can only be availed of with a cash purchase. She apologized that the crew did not tell Sheila and she said that it will mess up her purchase card if they correct the transaction. In short she was saying that it was unfixable and that we should just avail of the offer next time we come…like I want to go back there again! I told the crew that if they don't have a system to fix the error, then never mind. The two crews went back to their work. Gege appeared disappointed and said ‘what a waste of marketing effort!” We all agreed. The staff of the coffee shop obviously made an error when he forgot to ring the sale and when the error needed to be corrected, the system did not allow it - opportunity to go the extra mile gone awry!

A couple of things can be observed from this incidence:

  • The crews, greet customers, thank customers for dining, articulate in their communication and quite skilled in the manner of serving food. They obviously had some training in serving customers.
  • They apologized did not make any excuses for their mistakes. This is the right thing to do when you make mistakes because the customer do not want any excuses, however, when things like this happen, the customer would want rectification but the service crew did not offer any, which cancelled out any of their effort to appease the customer.
  • The crew in charge of ringing the sale did not bother to offer the promo and did not explain how it can be availed of. He just relied on the standee advertisement that does not provide complete information. He obviously have no appreciation for promo selling, or suggestive selling. He clearly have no understanding of the objective of the promo, this often happens in an establishment like this. Marketing will think of something to entice customers to come back to the store but they fail to educate the front liners of the purpose which results to this, a failed effort.
  • Two promos that go against each other – the cash card and Time Magazine promo that discourage customers from using the cash card. This kind of compartmentalized initiatives give front liners trouble. I know I’ve been a front liner before.
  • Lastly, the front liners have limited understanding of customer service or satisfaction. They failed to put themselves in our shoes and understand our situation. It is easy to surmise that their service skills is limited to S.O.Ps. This is what happens when the employees are not empowered to do what they can to satisfy or delight the customer without compromising the company. They don’t know and don’t care about going the extra mile.

Customer service is more and more becoming a tricky business, with customers like us who expect more sophisticated service from the providers especially when they charge a hundred pesos per cup of coffee! And there is this, technology that cause word of mouth advertisement, whether positive or negative become exponentially more powerful. Hindi pwedeng matulog sa pansitan! (a Filipino term for not sitting on your Laurels) Not only that, if the crews only noticed how my friends Mars, Sheila, Gege and Tisha devoured the cakes and how we do that every other week, they’ll easily calculate the amount of business loses they’ll have because of our dissatisfaction!

Seriously now, I believe that service oriented companies must exert effort to empower their employees to become more customer oriented. They need help in understanding the concept of customer service beyond being nice and articulate with customers. They need to be empowered to have elbow room to be able to work on customers reasonable requests. Looking for opportunities to surprise and delight the customers must be ingrained in the minds of not just the front liners but everyone in the organization that support each transaction most especially the ones who thought that the Time Magazine promo can only be availed of through cash purchases!

Only two things can make this happen, a good training program and people from management serving as service champions

I’ll have the article I promised delivered next post.

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