Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.


February 2018
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Who’s in Charge?

One of the hallmarks of exceptional companies is employees who are trusted and expected to make decisions. It’s one of the keys to exceptional customer service that companies like Disney, Lands’ End, Nordstroms and others not only know, but practice.

The thing that I find most amazing about this secret to success is that these companies don’t keep it a secret. Maybe they should.  If it were treated like a secret then other companies would pay more attention to this when they ‘discovered’ it and rush to practice it. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

I got another lesson in how helpless front line employees can be recently. I placed an order with Amazon and in filling out the shipping directions I included both my street address and P.O. Box number as part of my address since I didn’t know how the item would be shipped. (My local post office doesn’t offer home delivery, just boxes, and they insist on a P.O. Box number according to a nasty letter I received from the USPS a while back. More on that some other time.) I later got an email from the company providing the product stating that they didn’t ship to P.O. Boxes and that my order had been cancelled.

I promptly called their direct ‘customer service’ line and after a brief wait I was actually talking with a real live person. Ned was pleasant to talk to and after giving him my order number he promptly had my order on his computer screen. So far so good. I explained what had happened and he agreed that he could see my street address on my order. Problem solved, right? Ah, not so fast.  You see, Ned wasn’t authorized to do anything about it other than to write up a report to send to someone else in his company to see if something could be done. No explanation of how it was not going to be possible to just ship the item to the street address that I had provided and that he could plainly see. No ability on his part to just delete the portion of the line that referenced the P.O. Box. Just a report that would be sent to someone else and I would hear back ‘sometime’. This for a product I needed right away.

‘Sometime’ arrived in the form of another email that gave me the location of yet another form I could fill out about my order. Pathetic.  So I did what you would expect any good customer to do. I ordered the same product from another company. Problem solved and in less time than I had spent talking with Ned. They lost a sale and all because their customer service rep wasn’t authorized to provide even the simplest of customer service.

Who’s in charge? The customer is and none of us can afford to forget it. Ever!


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