Have you ever heard those words come out of the mouth of a disempowered, box checking, don’t do anything that’s not on your list, employee? I did. I needed to fill the propane tank on our motorhome. I drove the 2 minutes to the gas / propane station and was promptly told by the young woman that came to assist me that she was not permitted to put auto propane in our motorhome. I asked, “why not?” She again repeated that she is not allowed to do that. She couldn’t give me a logical answer even after I made the comment that they had two pumps, one for propane tanks to fill BBQ’s, and one for propane tanks in automobiles and other vehicles – just like my motorhome. When I pressed her to explain why, because I could not see the logic in her response, she looked me in the eye and said “I can’t because it states that in my job description”. She told me to drive 15 minutes into town and go to a different station where they would do it. I made the drive because I needed the propane.
Here’s the point of this blog. Do you own a business? If yes, do you explain to your employees why they cannot perform a service so they can provide a logical answer to your customers? You may have very good reasons that relate to safety standards, certification or special training that certify they follow the right order and procedures to ensure the service is done properly – I’ll accept that. But to have an employee look at a customer and say “I can’t do that because what it says so in my job description” is absolutely insulting to them and the customer. Aren’t they smart enough to understand? If not, hire better staff. If it is really too difficult for your staff to explain then provide a written summary that can be handed to the customer to read to take the pressure of your staff. However, I believe the only right answer to this issue is to train your staff to be able to provide all the services and products you offer professionally and competently.
As I drove off, I felt sorry for that young woman who was told to only do what is on her job description. It was obvious she was uncomfortable and a bit embarrassed that her boss put her in that situation.
You only have one chance to make a good first impression to either win over a customer or send the message that you don’t care. What are your employees saying when asked a question by your customers? Hopefully it’s the right thing. If you own the company or run the division, department or team, then you are responsible for equipping them and training them to serve customers effectively. Make sure you are constantly investing in your best asset, your people!