What the Clients Just Don’t “Get”

I had an epiphany while reading this post on Mystery Shop Forum. It is so easy to picture the scene: A jaded and bored employee being led into proper behavior by the frustrated shopper who just wanted to follow her script

I’ve worked for corporations before. The headquarters are staffed with brilliant people who come up with brilliantly boneheaded ideas sometimes about how to increase sales in the stores. “Hey, why don’t we just have all the cashiers/customer service people do/say this and our sales should go up by X% because we’ll have them push some really high-margin item each week. We’ll set a goal that 5% of the customers should be buying this thing. They should be able to hit that easily.” Of course, they give no thought to all the other things the cashiers are supposed to be doing at the same time.

And the people they are expecting to carry out this brilliant bit of whimsy are being paid minimum wage, just want to go home, and will never see a share of the increased profits they are expected to generate.

Can we spell “d-o-o-m-e-d—t-o—f-a-i-l”?

These people think the way to motivate employees is by giving them more rules to follow, then send someone in to spy on them to see if they are following them, then punish them if they aren’t.

At my last day job, we also were told to push certain items. In addition to a cheerful greeting, a “Did you find everything you were looking for?” a “Do you have our rewards card?” (with of course an attempt to sign them up if they don’t), “Paper or plastic?” (both for the bag and for the payment method) we were also supposed to notice what they had bought, tell them they might also need X and Y to go with that, and encourage them to take advantage of the special of the week, prominently displayed at each cash register, finishing with a request for them to go online and fill out a survey about their visit. Oh, and don’t forget to smile and thank them and ask them to come again soon as the customer finally snatches their bag off the counter and walks out muttering, “Good grief, I just needed a stupid roll of tape!”

The customer just wanted us to ring up their items so they could pay and get out of there.

The cashiers know this.

The cashiers are dis-motivated to go through that whole spiel because they know it ticks off the customers. So the cashier might pick one of the questions to ask, but not all of them.

And here comes the mystery shopper, waiting to see if they are offered the promotional item du jour and jump through the rest of the designated hoops so they can give the clerk credit for it.

And the only feedback we got on our performance was pages of statistics and comparative rankings against other stores in the chain, telling us to get our percentages up. Constant, incessant nitpicking to try to get us to do something we know annoys the customers.

And we have no monetary or other incentive on an individual basis to try to get those numbers up. We got the same pay for making the numbers as missing the numbers and we had to put up with the annoyance of the customer standing in front of us when we hit the third question of the script that elicited the inevitable sigh and “I really just want to pay and get out of here.”

Corporate has all these high ideals and standards and goals and the minimum hour wage employee has no reason to give a hoot.

Part of it is the lack of work ethic that is so prevalent in the current generation of workers, and part of it is the complete failure of corporate to understand how things work at store level.

All the mystery shopper can do is report it. But sometimes I really wish they would give us a box to express a subjective opinion about the scenario itself, how ridiculous it is to just stand there waiting for an unmotivated 18 year old to suggest the Mango Mocha Salted Caramel Latte that someone came up with as the special of the week for them to push. (Who ever decided caramel needed salt anyway?) The people working these places couldn’t care less what we order; most people who go to these places know what they want and don’t want some punk kid suggesting anything except a napkin to go with it.

Corporate doesn’t get it at all. And they don’t realize how off-putting and alienating it can be to give these silly scripts to their employees to follow with every single customer. I go to a certain fast food restaurant that used to greet every drive thru customer with “We’re in a good mood!” and I always wanted to ask, “Who cares?” Why should I care what mood they are in? For all they know, my dog just died. What I want to hear is, “Are you ready to order?” without a lot of preamble.

Are you listening, clients? How about giving your employees realistic encouragement instead of grading them on delivering up brainless, irrelevant suggestions to harried shoppers who do not want to engage in a conversation at the register, they just want to pay and get out? How about giving the employee a 25 cent bonus for every Mango Mocha Salted Caramel Latte they sell instead of telling them to “do better” if they don’t? Put down the stick and hold out a carrot and see if your people don’t come alive and start participating in those brilliant ideas you cook up in your boardrooms.

And start giving mystery shoppers realistic scenarios that don’t wave a flag at the employee telling him to jump up on his platform and start juggling that rubber ball on his nose for his audience with the checklist who came in to watch him perform.

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