Some time ago, I wrote a post generating a lot of interest titled “Have You Called Your Office Lately?” The post centered on the fact that we must experience what our customer does when calling our business in order to determine if any changes are needed.
Another critical activity is walking around our own business and observe customer close encounters first hand. Last week, I ran by Walmart to pick up a few items and somehow wound up far exceeding the 20 item express check-out maximum. I was waiting in line at one of the very few registers open behind about 4 other shoppers. During an almost 15 minute wait, I had much time to observe what service personnel in the store were up to. The cashier in my line was working earnestly, scanning items as fast as possible checking people out. While she was doing that, I heard some raucous laughter behind me. I could see three Walmart employees enjoying what must have been a great story. These employees were gathered at a stand behind the checkout lines that anyone would assume was there primarily to monitor the success of the check-out function.
As one of these employees exited the gathering and passed by still smiling and laughing about what must have been a great conversation, I remained waiting not so patiently in line. I called over to her to let her know that I and the others in line had been waiting quite a while and requested that she see if the store could open another check-out line to speed things up. She said, “Yeah OK” not so enthusiastically and walked off. My eyes followed her as she approached another gaggle of employees four registers down. Instead of pointing my way or making something happen, she appeared to relay the funny story to this new group of idle employees as they all erupted into spontaneous laughter. Needless to say, I nor any of my fellow customers waiting in line had anything to laugh about.
Decades ago, Tom Peters wrote about the importance of MBWA (Management By Wandering Around). Have we forgotten this important management activity in today’s world? Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and author of Made In America would surely be rolling over in his grave if he witnessed what I saw that day.
As a leader, what do YOU do to observe the journey your customer is on in your business? No policy, management directive, or even a customer journey map is a substitute for MBWA. This is true whether you have a storefront like Walmart or an online enterprise. How many of us have visited a website only to be dismayed by the lack of ‘user’ design. I want to reach through the screen and ask “What were you thinking????” when I can’t easily find contact information or product details that one would assume would be front and center.
But I digress…. Back to the cashier at Walmart. When I finally got to the front of the line she was as friendly as she could be. Kind of surprising when she was working so hard and her co-workers obviously weren’t. I looked at her nametag and said “Patricia, I’m surprised none of your co-workers have noticed how hard you are working and that more check-outs need to be open.” She rolled her eyes and concurred by saying, “You would think so wouldn’t you!” It was a bonding moment for sure. I thanked her for her hard work and told her how lucky Walmart was to have her.
In a workforce that is 75% ‘actively disengaged’ according to a recent study by Gallup, we better make sure the highly engaged employees like Patricia don’t leave out of sheer frustration that they are the only ones who care. Herein lies another benefit of MBWA; witnessing your superstars in action. When you do observe heroic effort be sure to reward it! After all, Patricia’s are hard to find!