Cathy, owner of the clothing store, complains that Alexandra does not treat customers coming into the store well. Alexandra is a fashion assistant who is quick with customers and often sends them to other assistants when she is too busy. Cathy has a meeting with Alexandra and other fashion assistants to focus on the importance of customer service. Alexandra and the other assistants dont believe Cathys words. According to Alexandra, The web is where its at. Walk-ins are a waste.
Customers come to the store seeking assistance in buying clothing accessories. Most of the business is online, and the occasional walk-in business is an inconvenience for Alexandra and other assistants, because it takes considerable effort and time away from the main work of helping maintain the online business.
Cathy awards Alexandra with higher performance evaluations if those online catalogs generate lots of business, change rapidly as the market changes, and lead to few online complaints. In-shop service is not rewarded. As a result, walk-in customers are a pain.
If Cathy wants effective customer service for live customers at the store, she needs to make a commitment by rewarding the effort appropriately and by providing a greater focus on it through her performance appraisals. All of the organizations performance appraisals and rewards focus on the web. Some of that attention should be shifted to walk-in customers.
This all relates to Steven Kerrs classic 1975 Academy of Management Journal piece On the Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping For B. In the article, he states that companies often hope for long-term growth but reward quarterly earnings. They hope for teamwork but reward individual effort. They hope for quality but focus on shipping schedules. They hope for honesty but reward reporting good news. In other words, they have glorious hopes but in reality try to get by while taking the easy way out.
Many of the easy-way-out rewards occur because there is a focus on objective criteria that is easy to collect. Quarterly earnings are easy data to collect. They are simple, they are now. Long-term data collection, which factors equipment depreciation and rates of change, requires tenacity and the willingness to stick it out. Quantifying sales is easy. The quality of a product and service is much harder to measure.
Sometimes top management lacks the willpower to go through all the steps it takes to execute the mission of the company. If the mission of the fashion store includes a focus on customer service, then Cathy should make a commitment throughout her entire personnel system that customer service is a top priority. Orientation for fashion assistants such as Alexandra should include a focus on customer service. Job descriptions for the fashion assistants should include the focus on customer service, not only for the web but also for the walk-in customers. The performance appraisal plan should focus on the need to have strong customer service. If the fashion assistant does well, there should be a mechanism to reward the fashion assistant. If the fashion assistant does not do well, options include a customer-service training program, or in the worst-case scenario, the loss of a job.
In summary, if your company has we want to maximize A in its mission statement, then the company should reward maximizing.
Gundars Kaupins, professor of Management, Boise State College of Business and Economics. firstname.lastname@example.org