Staff attitudes can kill a business

A number of my friends have been raving about a new Spar that opened up in the Plattekloof area recently. So I decided to do one of my “big” shops there and test it out for myself. They were right about one thing – it is big!

Anyway, my kids go through cheese like nobody’s business – so I normally buy one of those very big blocks of cheese and take it to the deli section in the supermarket and ask them to grate it for me. So off I went to the deli section in this new Spar and asked them to grate it for me. The person behind the counter told me they don’t do that for their customers.

I said I am sure you are wrong – won’t you please call your supervisor. She arrived and said more or less the same thing to me. I explained that all their competitors do it so perhaps they should check once more to see if they were allowed to do it. The supervisor duly came back and said no they do not provide that type of service.

The shop was not busy at all – and nobody had ventured near the deli counter in all this time. At least 10 minutes with all the walking backwards and forwards to find out if indeed they could do this. Now I bet you a million dollars that there is no rule in that store that says you may not grate cheese for our customers. But they stuck to their guns and refused to grate the cheese.

This is what I call a serious attitude that will be the demise of any store that has just opened. You cannot tell me it is a training problem because it is not. These guys were not even pleasant in their negative responses – they were not prepared to go the extra mile even though there is a great Pick and Pay just one block away which is always full. All of which I tried to explain to them as politely as I could.

On what basis were they selected for their jobs? Were they tested for their attitude on the job?

I had another similar incident at a Spar Tops store recently. I have just moved and have had some temporary staff help me move in. When I drew cash to pay their wages – I got a fist full of R200 notes. So I popped into the Tops which is where the ATM is – to ask for change. I waited until they were serving a customer as I know they are not allowed to open their drawers without a transaction.

What did the cashier do as I asked? She literally slammed the till drawer closed and said “Can’t you see my drawer is closed?” There was another customer right behind this one – so I said I can wait until you open it again. She then said without even asking me what type of change I wanted and said “I have no change”. “But I want notes, not coins” and she once again said “no”.

Now I have moved to a small town called Hermanus – and not one customer standing at the till point at that time was remotely happy with her response and told her as such. I wonder how many of them will return? I know I won’t.

So how do you handle staff, who persist in dishing out negative attitude? That is of course if you know about it?

You can’t train attitude – it comes from within that person. It is the willingness to go that extra mile for each and every one of your customers – each and every time.

They must “want” to do it. If the willingness is not there – it is time to discipline them out of the business.  Yes I know that some of you will say – you can incentivize the staff and you will get better results. But that is missing the point in my view.

It is the chicken or the egg scenario – which comes first? Their attitude or your willingness to pay extra for providing what should be just good common sense  –  customer service?

The sad part for me is that if the manager or owner had been around – there would have more than likely been a very different response to both requests. I did pay the Spar in Plattekloof one last visit recently and was saddened to see how the range had been reduced with huge big empty spaces on the floor. It may have nothing to do with the staff – but my guess is that it has!

Spend more time up front recruiting your staff and test for attitude as thoroughly as you can. None of us can afford to have staff that will not go the extra mile!

Take care out there

Jocelyn Daly


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  1. #1 by Michel Groenewald on May 11, 2011 - 11:38 am

    I have a small kwikspar down the road from plattekloof and would like to on behalf of the group appoligise for your bad experience. Ii know the owners and there is definitly not a rule like that, they would have cladly grated your cheese for you.They have spend millions on a revamp for that store and need their return on their invetsment, just goes to show how your staff can kill your bussiness for you.


  2. #2 by Chris on December 3, 2011 - 2:49 pm

    I would just like to congratulate you on your spoton piece of writing about c stores and customer service. Everything you mentioned is so important to any bussines. Would you mind if I made use use of it for training purposes.

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