The clerk behind the grocery store service counter was running ragged. There were five customers backed up waiting to take care of business, from purchasing lottery tickets to returning merchandise and from asking about a coupon to getting a price adjustment.
When it was our turn, we made a comment about how busy it appeared to be. The clerk replied that it had been hectic all day and that the work they’d been assigned “in the back” was not getting done. At that point, we began the conversation about staffing the “customer service” counter.
We suggested that the reason they were there in the first place was to take care of customers, not whatever the manager assigned as chores or tasks. There was agreement before a “but” that prompted our response to let the manager know, in no uncertain terms, that the assigned work was not getting done because they were taking care of customers.
If you are a manager or business owner, it is imperative that your employees understand their first priority: Take care of the customers! Reports, stocking shelves, team meetings or whatever else is on your agenda of priorities should always take a back seat to taking care of the people who want to move your merchandise and give you money. Anything less, in our opinion, is poor management.
Consider this example; You’re shopping in a store and hear the announcement over the public address system that all “associates” should assemble in the men’s wear section for a team meeting in five minutes. What’s your perception?
One could be that you have five minutes to get any help before there is no one available to take care of whatever you might need in terms of service.
Two could be that someone is going to get chewed out and made an example of in front of all the other people on shift.
Three could be the manager has a self-inflated ego about what’s important to the company.
A criminal mind might use that meeting to attempt something illegal.
While we realize it is difficult to hold team meetings when a business operates 24 hours a day, they can be conducted prior to a shift change by paying a few minutes of extra time for staff to show up early. Consider how the workers feel when they have to stop what they’re doing and ignore customers to attend a group get together that may or may not have significance to their performance.
It is far easier to build employee morale through individual attention. Corrective action is best achieved one-on-one and while praise for exceptional performance is appreciated in a group environment, it is also a boost when provided face-to-face.