Employees Can Be a Source of WOM (Good or Bad)

September 15, 2008

So I go to Sears the other day to replace a part on a weed whacker.  I approached what seemed  to be a mildly disinterested cashier. You know the type, typical summer help, there to get through the day without any hassles. I show her the part and ask, “where can I find a replacement?”. I knew before asking that she had no idea what it was and sure enough, she replies,” I don’t know, what is it?” and proceeds to call for back up. This is when I decide to have a little fun. As the cashier and her supervisor return, I say “Didn’t they give you any training on where things are? You should ask them to train you so you could provide better service to your customers.” The response from her supervisor was priceless, she says” She’s just a cashier, she doesn’t need to be trained on stuff like that?” I am quite sure that Sears management would not publicly admit to such a policy. Yet the supervisor was equally as clueless about the part as the cashier, so obviously she couldn’t be much help in making her a better cashier. Luckily, there was a young man who knew everything, but then he wasn;t a cashier.

Well this was not a complete customer service disaster. I was pleased because of the story content this encounter provided and how it ended. As I was getting ready to pay for the replacement part, the cashier tells me that Craftsman has a lifetime waranty on replacement parts and that there would be no charge. Of course that made me happy and the cashier and Sears was somewhat redeemed in my eyes as a result.

Customer service across the board is disappointingly low, even though great customer service is a sustainable point of diiferentiation. While I believe that every employee in a company should be customer focused, employees on the front line especially need to be. A lot of word of mouth about companies is a result of experiences with front line employees.


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