January 27, 2006
Are you Nickel and Diming Your Customers?
I have been traveling internationally this week (one of the reasons for my sparse postings) and I had an interaction as customer that made me examine how not to train your people.
Briefly, I was at the Airport in Munich Germany waiting for my flight to Moscow. I purchased a cigar at a shop using a credit card (I did not have any Euros, only U.S. cash). Then, I asked for some matches. The woman behind the counter told me that the matches were $0.10 Euro (a dime). I still did not have Euros and the credit card had already gone through for the cigar. I offered either U.S. cash or my credit card again.
At this point, the woman behind the counter could have offered to give me the matches, taken my U.S. cash, or even taken my credit card. Instead, she told me she couldn’t take the credit card for such a small purchase, wouldn’t take U.S. cash, and didn’t offer to give me the matches (I didn’t ask either, as I wanted to see what she would do). I walked out of the store with a cigar and nothing to light it with.
Needless to say, the lack of matches left a bad feeling for the shop, the airport, and even the country that was several orders of magnitude greater than the price of the matches…
What I took out of the experience:
1. If you train your customer service staff on policies and procedures, they are likely to follow them (e.g., matches cost money, don’t accept U.S. dollars, no credit card purchases below a certain threshold). Perhaps interjecting some principles (e.g., make sure the customer is treated well, don’t nickel and dime!) and allow your staff to break the rules when the result from the rules seems to go against the principles. This issue is particularly bad at large companies, but I continue to see opportunities for improvement at many small companies, including this small shop in the Munich airport…
2. If you don’t train your people on thinking about the needs of the customer and how your product might work for them (or not work for them) before the purchase is complete, you might end up with mismatched expectations.
postscript: I am writing this post from 30,000 using Lufthansa’s in flight internet connection. The airline and the country shot up a few orders of magnitude when I turned on my laptop in flight!