Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calling the Cable Company

I've frequently advocated for the senior executives and boards of directors to be required to use their companies' websites and toll-free numbers.

From: The Doghouse Diaries:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why you can't get good customer service at Office Depot

Many big box stores are known for delivering poor customer service.  In fact, service is the key way that small businesses can compete with the big boxes.  Last week I learned one reason that customer service in Office Depot is so bad.  In short, it's their hiring process.

The local Office Depot advertises almost every other month for departmental managers.  Either they're rapidly promoting people up the chain, or they've got astronomical turnover.  The same is true for several other large chains in the area.  Family Dollar is always looking for an assistant manager (more on that later).  Because I'm underemployed during the summer months, I applied for the Office Depot position.  I got a phone call inviting me to come in and take a computer-based personality test.  It had over a hundred questions, most of which were statements to which I had to indicate if I agreed or disagreed with them.  Many questions were rephrased and repeated often, either because they're deemed important or to gauge consistency in answers. 

There were several questions that left me rather puzzled.  I answered them honestly, because I'm just the most honest person you'll ever meet, and because I wasn't interested in "gaming the system."  Either they're going to hire me for being me or they're not.  One strange statement was "I like to take naps in the afternoon."  Hell yes, I like to take naps in the afternoon.  Not at work, of course, but the statement didn't differentiate between workdays and weekends.  So what does it mean that I clicked "agree" to this statement?  That I'm lazy?  Or that I'm honest?

Another question said something like "I've done something in my life of which I'm ashamed."  Again, I clicked "agree."  I can't think of a specific instance, however I'm pretty sure that sometime (or several times) in the last fifty years I've done something of which I'm ashamed.  Hasn't everyone?  Again, what does it mean that I answered the question the way I did?  That I'm honest or that I'm ashamed of my behavior?

Yet another statement was "I've broken some traffic laws."  I'm pretty sure I was speeding (at least a little) on my way to the store to take the test.  I probably didn't use my turn signal every time I was supposed to.  In fact, I would bet there's hardly a day that I don't commit a minor infraction of one sort or another.  Given that most people don't even know most traffic laws, it's safe to say that there's hardly a driver on the road who doesn't break traffic laws.  So, what does it mean if you click "agree" to this statement?  More importantly, what does it mean if you click "disagree?"  That you're a liar?

I suspect Office Depot uses this test because their store managers don't know how to screen applicants or conduct job interviews.  The fact that they've got such high turnover and that customers receive poor service in their stores underscores this fact.  They probably hired an expensive consultant to create this test.  The consultant probably has no knowledge of psychology other than a book or two he might have read.  He then sold them this test and convinced them it would help the hiring process.

As bad as the test was, it still was better than the one offered by Family Dollar.  They sent me a link to a similar test, but instead of agreeing or disagreeing to one statement at a time, their test presented you with pairs of statements, and you were required to choose the one you agreed with.  Uh, what if I don't agree with either?  Or what if I agree with both?  What if you were presented with these two statements: 1. I'm a bank robber.  2. I'm a child molester.  Which one would you choose?  Now, those weren't actual questions from the exam (or maybe they were; I quit the exam before finishing it).  They're the type of things with which I was presented.  Two statements that were equally negative in my mind.  I e-mailed their HR department and told them that I was positive if they asked their CEO to take this exam, he would tell them to stop using it.

In every job I've had, customer service is one of my top priorities.  I treat others as I would like to be treated.  And I define "customer" as each and every person with whom I deal.  It doesn't have to be a customer of my business, it could be a coworker.  I treated the guy in the mail room with the same respect I showed the CEO (he appreciated it, she did not).  If Office Depot had hired me, they would have seen an enormous jump in customer satisfaction at that store.  Just as with each and every other business in which I've worked, I would have made sure that every customer who walked through the door was taken care of and left pleased with their purchase.  Oh well, it's their loss (and yours, if you're an Office Depot customer).