Recently, I went into one of the world’s largest discount stores to buy an Ethernet cable for my computer. I walked around the Electronics section for 10 minutes before I had to go into the School Supplies section to find someone to assist me. The nice salesperson in school supplies went to the nearest telephone to summons a salesperson to meet me in the Electronics section. I returned to the Electronics section only to wait 10 more minutes for an Electronics salesperson to arrive. The reason I didn’t leave the store after such a long wait was because I didn’t want to go “store hopping” for an Ethernet cable. Normally, I would have left as a matter of principle. However, over the years, I realized that no one cares about my principles. It’s like when someone says, “It’s not about the money…it’s the principle…” For me, it’s the money and the principle.
So, finally an older woman walks slowly and casually over to where I was standing. I saw three rings of Ethernet cables that all looked alike. I asked her, “What’s the difference between the $9.95 cable compared to the “$14.95 one?” She looked at me as if to say, “Fool, the $14.95 cable is longer.” I asked her a few more questions. And each of her responses could be described best as “Nice Nasty.” Nice enough not be totally rude, but nasty enough to be insulting. Not content with letting the situation lie after deciding on the cable size that I would purchase, I asked her for the manager. She replied that she WAS the manager. I walked off, bought the Ethernet cable, and left the store. The next day I had to return it after discovering that the Ethernet cable wasn’t the problem. It was the modem. Normally, my recourse would have been to write the CEO of the company outlining my experience and revealing the name of the manager. But, I’ve been partially desensitized, because such occurrences have become commonplace. So here are a few suggestions for discount store managers to improve their strategic leadership skills.
Connect customers to your self-interest. Strategic leaders have the ability to connect long-term goals to short-term needs and strategies. Financial success cannot be manifested until the needs of the marketplace have been satisfied. And the marketplace is a conglomeration of individuals operating in their self-interest. By delivering superior customer service, a strategic leader embraces the notion that doing good and well is the formula for upward mobility. But, the self-interests of customers have to be accomplished first before the manager is compensated. As a result, the self-interest of the manager flows through customers. Enlightened strategists feed the self-interest of others to position themselves for better opportunities inside or outside an organization.
Improve critical thinking and decision-making skills. Managers should understand the correlation between customer satisfaction and profitability. By raising the customer satisfaction quotient, which increases a store’s gross revenue, strategic leaders build their resume and make their case for succession. In a commerce-driven society, strategic leaders position themselves for higher salaried positions by demonstrating the ability to either save or earn money for a company. By instilling skills within employees to analyze and make effective decisions, managers are promoted and given greater responsibilities as entry-level employees move up to assume managerial roles in a learning organization.
Education breeds insight and awareness. Strategic leaders act as consultants when they have become educated in the ways of selling. Consultative selling allows managers to respond to the needs of customers by managers viewing themselves as problem-solvers. Formal or informal education stretches managers’ insight into seeing customers as opportunities rather than impediments. If it’s true that our awareness expands with more information, then it is necessary for managers to instruct in practical ways that make all stakeholders problem-solvers.
So the next time you experience a salesperson or manager acting contrary to the best interest of a company, this might be an opportunity to use the experience as a case study for organizational development. And then send the case study with a letter to the CEO.
Edward Brown, M.S.