Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The importance of taking ownership in your work and your business 1: representing your business at its very best

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 22, 2013

I have written about the value of employees taking an ownership approach when they work, and of making an owner’s level of commitment to their place of employment and to its customers – their customers who they work with. I have been thinking about the constellation of issues that go into this and have been planning on writing at least a brief series on what this means, and for quite a while now. And I find myself writing this now on the basic of two very recent experiences: one my own and one shared with me in conversation.

The first is one that I experienced as a customer where I walked into a store to find out if I could purchase an item there at the sales price that I had just seen on their web site. I do understand that bricks and mortar, and online sales and prices can and do differ for many businesses, with the pricing decisions that go into them made in different and even completely separate lines on their tables of organization. But this was the web site for a large multiple-outlet business with bricks and mortar storefronts in many locations. And their company-wide web site did offer a link for picking up the items advertised as being on sale online at local stores. What the web site did not say, at least until you clicked deeply in past that “store pickup” link, as I later found out, was that you could not get the online sales price then, or any sales discount. But that detail is beside the point, at least here. I walked into that store with expectations based on what I had seen from their own web site and their own marketing. And I tried entering into a conversation with one of their sales personnel who was standing at their customer service counter and they were busy on the phone – their cell phone with a personal call, and could not be bothered.

This member of the sales staff took offense for interrupting her when I asked her to help me and I admit some words were exchanged. I expressed my dissatisfaction that a store employee on duty could not be bothered to assist a customer in need of help and she told me I should just go somewhere else, to another store and not interrupt her; she did not want my business. OK, this was an extreme example of bad sales practice that a disinterested and disconnected salesperson literally told a customer with money in hand to leave and buy elsewhere. But that type of thing happens and way too often, and perhaps particularly as we all come to see our phones as resources we can use anywhere and at any time and as our sense of personal and professional life blur together.

• Part of what I have to write about here involves taking ownership and part involves taking responsibility,
• And essentially all of it involves thinking about and following through, representing the business worked for as it could be at its best.

The other experience that I would share here involved a conversation I had with a friend at the local gym that we both go to. And he was telling me about a very dissatisfying experience that he had just had with a different business and we were talking about essentially this same set of issues in general, and what can lead to the sense of expressed disconnect and dysfunctionality that we both saw. I decided to write about this general set of issues now while both of these events were still fresh in my mind and both for their underlying details and for how these experiences made both me and my friend feel. And I decided to write about our encounters with bad business practices and about disconnects between intent and proclaimed policy, and actual day to day actions taken and practices followed.

I am going to start this series in the storefront and with sales personnel as that is where events broke down in both of the situations that I write of here. And I will start with employee training and supervision for that, and on how that is and is not translated into practice. And that will be the topic of my next installment.

To round out and complete this first series installment, there are a number of details of the example situations that I have touched upon above, that call for further discussion and analysis. I will refer back to this posting again in this series, as well as adding in new material. But whether expanding on the example situations touched upon above or exploring newly added ones, I am going to focus on the importance of a fundamental issue that I make explicit note of here, and especially as businesses face essentially open-ended competition and certainly for any business that faces online competitors as well as more local bricks and mortar competition.

• If you do not get customer relations and a sense of commitment to good service right, your customers will take the advice of that sales clerk I had to deal with and walk out to bring their business elsewhere. And ultimately, no business can withstand much of that kind of employee support without feeling a negative impact from it on their bottom line and their overall competitive position in their marketplace.

You can find this posting at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and related material at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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