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I feel sorry for the people on the front line

Sorry for people on the front lineA quick trip into one of my local shops to pick up a paper is providing me with a revealing insight into the how the business is run. It is a small store for a major PLC retailer……

I was in the queue behind an elderly gentleman, who like me, had just gone in to purchase a paper. The shop assistant handed him a small leaflet, whilst waiting for the till receipt to be printed. He indicated that he didn’t want it. “But I have to give it to you” she protested; reluctantly and very politely he took it from her. “If you then want to give it back to me that is OK!” she then added. Somewhat shocked he returned the voucher and left. I took the voucher when it was my turn, keen to see what all the fuss was about.

It was a two for one voucher for Merlin Entertainments Attractions. Every time I go in I get handed one of these presumably “because they have to”; even though I go in most days (convenience!), there is no appreciation that I have a small wad of these now. Or at least a street bin has!

It got me wondering about what this woman had been told would happen to her if she did not comply (how would anyone actually know?) with every customer. I also wondered whether the income received for this labour intensive “promotion” was worth the potential alienation of customers. They may be better walking around local streets and just pushing them through letterboxes. I also wondered what training she had had as to how to “sell” this leaflet and why it was important for her to do so – “I have to give it to you, but you can give it back” doesn’t seem to be a very effective selling technique.

Today my wife purchased some greetings cards. She was asked (bizarrely) if she wanted to buy a gift card for £10.00. When she declined the shop assistant indicated that if she bought a card and put £10.00 on it, the shop would add £5.00 and she could then use the gift card to pay for her purchases saving her £5.00. This is odd behaviour; I can only imagine the poor woman is tasked with “selling” more of these gift cards and has worked out that this is a good way of upping her performance. Of course, it is costly for her employers – the card comes at a cost, the discount is immediate, and it is not what the cards are designed for (they are gift cards, with a delay between the shop taking the money and the gift card being redeemed, if ever!). It all seems a bit desperate…………

So what are you doing that is counter-productive either in cash/profit terms or simply in alienation of your customers? How are your front-line staff actually delivering your messages to your customers? Next!