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Mon, 2016-11-14 16:31 -- scott

The High Cost of Bad Customer Service


"I don't have any idea...I don't normally work here"
The other night I took my wife out on a date to do some some pre-Christmas Window shopping at the mall.  On the way to the mall I saw Dicks Sporting Goods and remembered my football team had given me a gift card at our end-of-the-year party.  We dropped by Dicks and looked around for a bit.  My wife needed a new bike tube for her triathlon bike so we headed to the bike section.  Two employees were hanging out in the bike section.  My wife asked one of them if they had road bike tubes.  “Umm I don’t really know…I guess if we do it’s on the shelf.  You can look over there if you want.”  So we did look and yes there were road bike tires.  But my wife wasn’t sure on the sizes.  She asked the same employee about sizes and the employee said, “I don’t have any idea.  I don’t normally work back here actually."

My wife and exchanged looks that silently said, “OK, it’s apparent we aren’t going to get any help.  Let’s just get out of here.”  So we grabbed the tube that we thought would fit and headed to the cash register. 

Umm, do you have another gift card you can use maybe?
The young lady at the cash register, Hannah, swiped our bike tube and told us the charge would be $14.59.  I pulled the new $15.00 gift card out of my pocket and she told me to wait until the light turned blue and then to swipe my card.  I waited until the blue light appeared and then swiped my card.  The swiper unit said “processing, please wait”.  We waited about two minutes and it still said processing.  The young lady stared blankly off to the side while we waited.   We asked if perhaps we needed to swipe again.  “I have no idea, I’ll call for help.”  So she called for help and just as she was asking the individual on the other line what to do the processing window went away.  She stared at her screen for a few moments.  Then she swiped our bike tube again and asked me to wait for the blue light and then swipe my card.  I did so and she told me there was only $.41 on the card which wasn’t enough to purchase the tube.  I told her the card was brand new.  She stared at me blankly.  “Sorry.”

I did some quick math in my head and figured out the first swipe had taken $14.59 off my card and there was $.41 remaining.  A mistake happened somewhere while the swiper unit was "processing".  I explained this to her and she stared at me.  “Umm, do you have another gift card you can use maybe?”

Mistakes happen; it’s a fact of life.  I was kind of anxious to get on to our date at the mall so I just decided to forget the bike tube and move on.  Yes, I could have just paid cash for the tube but I was annoyed with Dicks and didn’t want to give them business they didn’t deserve.  I bid farewell to Hannah and we started out the doors.  Just then my wife saw the manager come to the front desk.  She tugged on my arm and said, “Let’s go chat with the manager and give him a chance to fix this.”

The machine doesn't make mistakes so...sorry...
So we approached Tyler, who was apparently a manager of sorts (his badge said he was the Hardlines Manager).  I quickly explained the situation and Tyler said, “Well, the machine doesn’t make mistakes so…sorry...”  He made to move on his way and I asked if there was a way for him to check the card transaction history and he told me I could do that by calling the number on the back of the card.  I asked if he could call for me and he laughed and said “No, I don’t do that kind of thing.” He made to move on his way again and my wife stopped him and said, “Tyler who is your manager.”  He replied his manager was Jay and that Jay wasn’t here.  My wife asked what the manager’s last name was and Tyler say, “There is no way I am telling you that.”  He then made to move on his way again and we let him go.

Needless to say I didn’t have warm fuzzies toward Dicks after this experience.  Either the employees at Dicks were all total drips or they were only doing what they had been (or not been) trained to do.  Since we had the same kind of experience with three employees from three separate departments, I am guessing the issue is training--rather than individual employee problems.  I told my wife I wasn’t going back there—even if they are a couple of miles from my house.  OK so big deal.  I am not going back to Dicks.  One less customer right? 


How much money did Dicks lose?
Let's add up the money Dicks might have lost on this one transaction:

  1. I’m not going to Dicks.  I typically spend about $100 there a year. 
  2. My wife is not going back to Dicks.  She typically spends $300 a year.
  3. I won’t take my three kids shopping at Dicks.  I have three multi-sport children who typically spend $200 each per year at Dicks .
  4. I am the football coach for a 21-player team.  I don’t control where their parents shop.  But I influence their shopping because I can tell them where I recommend they purchase their gear.  Let’s say each player spends $200/year.  If half of them listen to me, then they won’t shop at Dicks.  This is roughly $2100 per year.
  5. I am also a wrestling coach of about 50 kids who need wrestling shoes and singlets.  That is another $100 per kid for half the team.  Another $2500 per year. 

So my bad experience cost Dicks a potential $5200/year.  How much are these untrained employees costing the Meridian store on a whole?  Keep in mind this is one transaction on one Friday night.  It's unlikely that the same three employees provide a vastly different customer service experience to other customers. Am I exaggerating?  Maybe.  But maybe I'm not.  Consider this; an upset customer will typically tell 16 people of their bad experience.  But with social media the number can oftentimes be much higher.  In 2009 a Canadian musician wrote a song chronicling his real-life experience of how his $3500 guitar was broken during a trip on United Airlines.  He published the song to YouTube and today the video has 16 million views. 

So why doesn’t Dicks (and other companies) train their employees better?  Each of the interactions I had with Dicks' employees could have been improved with very simple training and very little effort on the part of the employee.  My guess is at some level a manager decided employee training was too expensive or took too much time.  Typically stuff like this comes from the top down rather than the bottom up.    

On the other hand
Training employees is important; not doing it can cost you a lot of money.  Conversely, training your employees can help you retain and even win additional business. 

Later that night my wife and I were at the mall and walked into a lotion shop.  The lone employee in the store walked out and greeted us cheerfully.  “What brings you two in this evening?”  The employee asked some key questions, provided some education, and we walked out of the store with a $20 bottle of something.  Will we go back again?  Yes.

Training matters and it makes a difference.