"Not My Responsibility!"

[As mentioned, in addition to providing you with “hiring tips,” we’ll also provide tips on the subject of staff performance.] 

Every so often, I like to spend an hour or so at my local Barnes and Nobles or Borders bookstore. I can be seen enjoying a mocha or caramel Frappucino while typing away at my laptop. As I came inside one fine afternoon, I saw some papers flying around on the sidewalk just in front of the bookstore. I looked to the right and there’s a trash can overflowing with trash. The tiniest bit of wind was blowing the trash off of the top and onto the sidewalk. Two other customers on their way inside noticed the trash and were not all that thrilled with trash blowing around them while they entered the store.

I went inside and found the Information Desk to report this matter to the staff. There were three staff there at this time. I mentioned the problem and the first response came from one of the guys: “It’s not our problem. The complex handles it.” A few seconds later, one of the other staff said: “No way our problem!”

I looked at both of them to see if they were kidding me. Once assured they weren’t, I said: “Oookay.” (yes the “o” part of the “okay” was drawn out to communicate a degree of disbelief)

Yes, I understand “THE COMPLEX” is responsible for taking care of the trash just outside of the bookstore. I get that. But when two staff tell me (both fairly assertively) that it’s NOT their problem that trash is blowing around right at the entrance to their establishment, they are essentially telling me that it’s not their problem if customers are presented with an immediately negative experience just as they enter the bookstore.

If you’re thinking that this incident wouldn’t even have made it into Customer Service 101, you’re right. This is just simple common sense. People have two choices in this town: Barnes and Nobles and Borders. They are very similar bookstore, with slightly different “rewards” programs and different brands of coffee in their cafes. With all things pretty equal, some people just may not like to have trash flying around on their way into a store.

To be completely fair, one of the staff did also say: “I guess I could go out there and pick up the trash.” So, I went back and checked. The trash can was still overflowing.

Okay, here’s the bottom line on this: If this was a store with the owner on the premises, and I had made it known to the owner that trash was flying around the entrance to his store, he very well might’ve beem upset that “THE COMPLEX” wasn’t doing their job, but he also would’ve said to me: “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll take care of it.” And he most likely would’ve taken care of it in five minutes or less.

The difference? One response displays a missing “care factor” and the other response includes that quality of caring what people are experiencing, REGARDLESS OF WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IT IS.

HOW the business is perceived and doing whatever can be done to improve the customer’s experience IS the responsibility of every employee. When that level of care is present throughout a business, all kinds of good things happen.


As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.

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