Tuesday, November 30

Management lessons while shopping

By Tim Timmons

It seems that at this time of year far too many people forget what the season is truly all about.

There’s shopping to be done. Decorations to pull out of the attic, dust off and display. Meals to be planned and prepared. There are office parties and dinners. And there are family get-togethers, along with tons of other activities.

All too often the reason for the season falls by the wayside.

Although I’m not trying to turn this into a column on the religious nature of the holiday, it’s still worth note that who you are inside and how you live your life can’t really be separated from how you manage people.

But, enough from the soapbox.

I’ve mentioned several times that I believe in shopping local. But for the purposes of this column, let’s venture out of the friendly surroundings of home and head for (HORRORS!) the mall!

First off, it’s important to remove your management hat and simply go as a customer. Because it’s only as a customer that you can “enjoy” this experience to its fullest.

What will you find once you get there?

Well, the first thing you will have trouble finding is a parking spot. That’s Point No. 1.

Once inside, you’ll also have a tough time finding any help. That’s Point No. 2.

When you pick something out, one of the things you will be able to find are long lines to stand in. That’s Point No. 3.

And when you finally get to the front and you’re ready to hand them your money, chances are that you’ll get no eye contact and most certainly not a smile. That’s Point No. 4.

As a customer, every single one of those things is maddening.

Now, put your manager hat back on and let’s review.

Point No. 1: At some places now, they have valet parking. While I’m WAAAAAY too cheap to do that, it does show that somebody somewhere is doing some thinking. That’s a good customer service idea and it’s making somebody some money. Nice.

Point No. 2: As a manager, we can learn something here. Staffing costs money and apparently the lack of help hasn’t slowed most folks down. Despite apparently erroneous media reports of a huge slowdown in spending, it appears that retail dollars are flying through cash register quicker than I can eat Grandma’s cookies. So the lesson is to be smart with your staffing. It has to be good enough, not perfect.

Point No. 3: The family and I went to the Indianapolis Art Museum. While we were standing in a long line, I noticed a special line for members only. Kind of like the airlines do. As a manager, perhaps there’s an idea there we can steal.

And Point No. 4: This is by far the easiest one. Don’t let employees treat customers as if they are a necessary evil. Tell them to smile and act like they mean it. If they can’t do that, don’t put them in front of customers!

The reason for the season isn’t learning opportunities for managers, but don’t pass up the opportunity!

Next week: More to come

Business Playbook is written by Tim Timmons. Timmons’ book, Coaching Success: Creating Champions for the Business World is available at www.tim-timmons.com.

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