The frontline


As a consultant I get to visit and observe a lot of businesses. It never ceases to amaze me the way some organisations just don’t “get it” when it comes to understanding the importance of front line staff and offerings in attracting and retaining customers. Let me give you a couple of contrasting examples:

Example 1 | Selling Apples

The Bad

Recently I was one of the lucky ones to secure an iPad2 (yes, it is as good as all the hype). I needed to purchase a cover to protect my new “toy” and a few accessories like an HDMI connector and earphones.

My first point of call was an Apple Dealer in the Melbourne CBD. Despite there being a number of staff in the store, either sitting at desks playing on their computers or chatting behind the counter, no one came to assist me for ten minutes. Eventually I gave up. I thought maybe being near a university they looked down on students and customers generally or were making too much money, and taking their Apple dealer status for granted. When I returned on a subsequent occasion I was lucky to interrupt a staff member restocking shelves who had no choice but to attend to me. But paying took ages and she had to fight for a counter terminal to take my money.

The Good

What a difference when I visited the Apple (corporate owned) store in Chadstone. As soon as I walked in I noticed how busy it was. I mistakenly thought to myself that I would have no chance of being served. But how wrong could I have been! I quickly became aware that there were a large number of staff wearing blue tops. One came straight over to me and asked if I needed help. He was extremely personable and knowledgeable about the products and sold me what I needed. Fearing he would send me off to a counter with a long queue, I asked: “Where do I pay?” His response was “Right here!”. He pulled out a hand held credit card device, swiped my card, printed me an interim receipt and sent me a full one to my nominated email account, all in 30 seconds.

The store did not have any iPad2s for sale. But the high standard of service left a deep impression on me. No wonder they were flat out selling so many other products to a packed store and have become a “major destination”, busy right through opening hours at this iconic shopping centre.

The Lesson

The lesson here is that it’s not the product but the service that makes the difference. Both stores sell the same products. But I would never go back to the first.

Example 2 | Scowl vs. Smile

The Bad

I have had to deliver a lot of papers recently to a well know law firm in Collins St, Melbourne. Each time I arrive at the reception the middle aged “sourpuss” on the counter begrudgingly greets me with a face like I am asking to eat her children.

I can see that I am a major interruption to her day. She is miserable in her job and it shows. Her attitude problem is so great I now avoid deliveries there and ask someone else to make them. I am not even a customer or client of the law firm. If I was looking for any advice, I would certainly not use them or recommend them. The damage to the law firm by the negative energy generated by this “sourpuss” is immeasurable.

The Good

I contrast this with the Melbourne Flight Training flying school and aircraft hire organisation at Moorabbin Airport from which I regularly hire aircraft. As soon as one enters you are greeted by an instructor or owner. I receive regular newsletters and updates with really interesting offers and  information. The planes are always clean and if I call ahead they will be refuelled and ready to go. They offer me and my passengers tea and coffee in a relaxing atmosphere and if I report any issue or problem it will remedied immediately. Often I will get a call from the owner or marketing manager trying to improve the service they offer. They are hungry for my business and it shows. As a result I fly more often from their school. Well done Glen, Jessica and the team. Visit the Melbourne Flight Training website here.

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