For all the talk of “putting the customer first” these days, many, if not most, companies really don’t.
(Actually, the right priorities for any company are the ones delineated by Bill Hewlett- the founder of Hewlett and Packard. They are: 1) profit, 2) customers, 3) employees. The reason for this ordering is that the higher priorities are necessary for the lower ones to exist. Nonetheless, focusing on customers is a generally good thing.)
If companies really cared about customers then their top management – let alone the managers of individual operations, would be spending time with them. This is one reason that we say that CEOs need to spend 30% of their time with customers — not selling, but understanding their customers’ business. And if the top management of many retail operations really shopped at them like the rest of us do – not looking for ways to pat themselves on the back, but in the frame of mind of busy people who just want to make purchase and get on with their day – they would see that so many of their “good ideas” are driving their customers crazy.
I do the grocery shopping in the family. (It’s not that my wife can’t, but because she does it so seldom, when she goes into a big grocery store she’s like a first-time tourist in New York City: “Golly, just look at all this stuff!” I, on the other hand, know where everything is.) Stop & Shop – my local chain – now gives out gas points with every dollar of purchase, and cashiers are instructed to print out your receipt, make a big deal out of all the gas points you have so far accumulated, and circle the number of them with a pen. Today, I just said to the cashier, “No need to go through it – I can read my receipt.” She said, “Thanks!” with relief, and I was relieved, too.
I’m sure that the “good idea” was to remind shoppers just how much Stop & Shop loves them and that they save money by shopping there. But the silly ritual every time gets grating. Not once in 18 years of shopping at this store have I ever been asked by the manager (or anyone) what was pleasant or aggravating about my experience that day. In fact, I’ve never been asked this question by any store employee anywhere at any time in decades of retail shopping, nor seen anyone else so asked.
Don’t they want to know?
Obviously not, or they’d be asking. It is no secret that there is much more information in one-on-one free-flowing interviews then there is in any sort of automated opinion collection or data analysis. So no, most top managers don’t want to know.
Mitch has repeatedly pointed out that “it’s amazing the lengths that management will go to to avoid talking to a live human being.” Want to see where you can really improve your business? Go talk to some.