with all due respect

I worked for a pretty big retail organization for more than half of my professional career.

I will try not to give away the name of the company in the attempt to protect your decision to continue shopping there, if need be. So please understand that if I use the words “home improvement”, “orange apron”, or “The Depot”; it is out of coincidence, and in no way am I trying to give away the fact that I worked for Home Depot for 12 plus years in store management.

importanteersWith that (not) being said…

Have you noticed that the only people that think you can actually find “excellence in customer service” in these stores are the Depot employees that don’t actually have to perform the service? You know what I mean, don’t you? There are a slew of big shots (that don’t wear the orange aprons with their name Sharpied on them), sitting in a huge conference room (with those cool leather chairs with the gold buttons on them) writing a Standard Operating Procedure (that makes The Bible look like a 2 point AR book) for “helping another human being” figure out where the light bulbs are located in the store.

So, the big orange box “big wigs” discuss, write, and distribute the “sure fire way” to ensure their associates are prepared to make sweet love to their customers. They set it up as a one-size-fits-all scenario so that even the most “personality challenged” person can tantalize a customer with a barrage of warmth and concern. Then they drill it in their heads all day long. They post signs in the overused breakroom to remind them, make them watch videos explaining it, and have them attend meetings, copperon their days off, to reiterate it. They explain the consequences for not following the rules and they “make an example” of a few employees to show that they are serious.

Then they follow the associates around like a Gestapo, trying to catch them doing something WRONG so they can exercise swift disciplinary action.

So how could it be that the service levels are so poor these days? Why is it that this company has become so pitiful at doing something that is so simple? What are they doing wrong?

I’m glad you asked…

First of all; one size NEVER fits all. Each customer and associate is an individual, just like each situation is unique. There are different moods, terms, and expectations to each interaction. You can’t create a good assortment of cookies with only one cookie cutter.

Second; if they trained more effectively, there would be less need to drill it into their heads all day long. They need to create “buy in” as opposed to “grind in”. We could all agree that if our bedroom was set beside a train track; we would eventually learn to “block out” the sound or find something to drown it out a bit so that we could get back to sleep. Kind like what we do to a nagging boss.

assumeFinally; they seem to not trust or respect their associates. They assume that if they leave it up to the employees to decide what to do, when it comes to servicing the customers, they will choose to do the wrong things. They don’t have confidence in their decision making abilities and they are have no patience to allow for a learning curve. So they drill and drill and drill in the message, and the direction loses its meaning and its influence.

If you have kids, this may sound familiar.

How many of us parents think that we have the one-size-fits-all answers to the scenarios that require our children to make decisions? What steps did we take to properly train them for what life will present them? Do we respect them enough to trust that they CAN make the right decision? Can we shut up long enough to give them a chance to prove that they can do things on their own? Did we provide them with the right tools to get the job done. Are the expectations realistic, or are we looking at it from a “conference table” point of view?

Here’s the real kicker…

What if, by giving them this ultimate permission, we actually found out that their way was more effective? What if they were able to produce the desired effect, ten fold? What if we actually became better managers due to their example? What if our orange box was a better place to shop because our kids were driven to make it so in appreciation for the love, honor, and respect we showed them as their boss?

smarterI say that good parenting has less to do with rule making and implementation and more to do with permission giving and preparation. Your household should be set up so that your children understand that it is ok to try and fail, as long as you try with good intentions. Then, you can follow your kids around; trying to catch them doing something RIGHT, so you can be swift to praise them for their good judgment.

Teach them how to make decisions that are honest, ethical, and moral; and then do yourself a favor and get the heck out of their way.

If they need your help…   believe me, they will ask for it.


12 Responses to with all due respect

  1. Anita Marie says:

    I used to work for Waldenbooks- sounds nice, dontcha think?

    So did they expect their sales staff to be avid readers? Maybe have a writer or artist on staff?

    Hell no.

    They wanted us to sell ” Discount Cards ” and it was made clear that if you wanted to advance you’d hit your quota.

    I sat down one day and figured that each card sold was 10.00 of pure profit for these guys- if each employee pulled in their quota they each employee brought in about 1000.00 a month EACH for selling little plastic cards.

    Books were sidelined.
    Sick ain’t it?
    anita marie

  2. His Girl says:

    Charlie once again great parenting insight. My children have often told me that when at their father’s it is run like a gestapo. The constant correction, lack of trust and no opportunity to learn responsibility. At my home we are a family, we lovingly support one another and work hard to extend grace when one fails. But how else do we learn without failing and being given the opportunity to succeed? Rejoice in the successes, embrace the failures, learn, live and grow. Bravo… PS I worked for BofA and well had the same experience as the big orange box. In fact I was the one who had to hand out the new “policy and procedures”. Hmmm no wonder I am still looking for work after being unemployed for so long. :D

  3. traci says:

    I absolutely LOVE this! Somehow, in my clueless, early parenting years, I figured out how to say ‘I don’t know, what do you think?’ in a way that got my daughters to think and learn and figure it out. Because the truth is I had no freakin’ clue and we really have all learned together. Luckily, no one died while we were doing all this experimenting and my girls are amazing young women now!

  4. Takeshi says:

    All I can say is another well written piece. Your closing paragraph sums it up rather succinctly. Often times, parents have the tendancy to do too much. We sometimes we forget they must learn to do things, and try on their own. If they fail, so be it because they must understand that failing is part of growing – as long as they “fail forward!”

    Mata ne . . .

  5. Hawk says:

    Another inspirational read to reinforce what I sometimes forget or I should say, “neglect!”

    See you soon my young friend!

  6. Mike Ash says:

    this makes me not want to shop at home depot anymore…thanks for the insight into their management…

    hopefully they don’t read blogs…

  7. Jayleigh says:

    “Then they follow the associates around like a Gestapo, trying to catch them doing something WRONG so they can exercise swift disciplinary action.”

    You must have had a hidden cammera on my boss last week while she was on my case.

  8. myderbe says:

    Hmmm . . . good point. Sometimes we get lazy and fall into that style of parenting. It takes so much more energy to encourage them to think for themselves. :) And the giving permission to try and fail is such a great point. I have a daughter who thinks she should never fail, so we’ve been discussing this a lot lately in our home.

  9. Kevin W says:

    Man I hate Home Depot……

  10. Kitten Wants says:

    I have to admit I rather like Home Depot and have on average had great service there. That aside I love the upbeat nature of this blog but I have to differ with you on one point. It is dangerous to assume a child will ask for help when they need it. I’m 30 years old now and when I visit my home town and see the people I went to high school with it has become glaringly apparent that the kids who needed the most help didn’t ask for it.

  11. Charlie says:

    AM: Too Sick

    HG: The perfect job is right around the corner. Remember to be picky. God has the perfect job for you.

    Traci: We have a lot in common. I too have not killed any of my children.

    Tack: You used “succinctly” in a sentence…too cool!

    Hawk: You could learn a lot from Tack…lol

    Mike: You look more like a Lowes guy anyway.

    J: I hate your boss. JK

    MyD: Let me know how that “think for themselves” thing works out…

    Kev: Me too, my man; and for the same reasons as you.

    Kitten: Thank you for your comments and honest opinion. I hope to see you around here more often.

  12. Mr. C says:

    Having spent many of the Gestapo years with you, I couldn’t agree more about the big Orange box. One of the best decisions I have ever made was to get the courage to break free of it and strike out on my own. Raising kids on the other hand is proving to be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling times of my life as well as being the most aggravating, stressful and gray hair growing periods Ive ever been through. The difference between each child’s personality (I have 3 and 1 on the way(god help me)) truly amazes me. Theyre young and being held captive in my “controlled enviroment” at the moment but when the time comes, letting them discover, triumph, fall or fail, I’ll try not to get too much in their way. Thanks for the insights Chaly

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