Never reprimand in public
Todd, electrical general foreman for a southwest Washington contractor, told Session 5 of Turbo’s Leadership Development Lab:
“In 1987 I was working at an auto parts store. A customer had come in to exchange a faulty part. I had previously been instructed by the store owner that we could not directly exchange faulty merchandise. We could process the return through the manufacturer, and if the manufacturer approved the return, then and only then could we make the exchange. As I was explaining our return policy and the procedures we followed to the customer, the store owner emerged from his office to intervene. He proceeded to belittle, insult and talk down to me in front of the customer. This continued for at least a solid minute, but it seemed like hours. After he finished with me, he began to argue with the customer and became verbally abusive. After a couple of minutes, the customer had heard enough. He took his defective part and headed towards the front door. The response from the store owner was less than professional to say the least – nearly jumping on the counter, he proceeded to yell profanities and insults at the customer. Not only was I humiliated, I was angry!
“The lesson I learned from this experience is to always be courteous and professional with my customers. The action I call you to take is to behave like a professional and a leader in all circumstances, especially with customers. Do not belittle or talk down to your employees in front of others. I guarantee that if you do, it will eventually affect the customers’ experience in a negative way. The benefit you will gain by being respectful is more respect from both employees and customers.”
This sounds like an extreme case. We can only guess what the outcomes may have been for this business 40 years later. I would be willing to bet that the owner has
either dramatically changed his ways or he is no longer the owner. If his business failed, which I can easily imagine, he may be moaning in a corner somewhere about unfair competition, bad customers, bad suppliers, and worst of all, bad employees. You and I may never know the full story here, but there's one thing we both can agree on - there's no excuse for unacceptable behavior. Todd was lucky to learn this lesson early on, and you and I would do well to be reminded of it on a daily basis; without the customer, we have no job. The only reason we exist, the only reason our business exists, is to care for, look after, and serve our customers. If we don't provide a superior customer experience, someone else will take our place!
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