Posts Tagged ‘Business Ethics’

How bad do you want that sale?

January 31, 2013 24 comments

I walked up to the Convenience Store near my office to buy a packet of chewing gum – the man in charge of the store was seated at the entrance, gazing at the world going by. He reluctantly got up and fetched the item and extended it to me.

I paid him Rs.10/- and waited for the change – he smiled and said: “No change!”

There is a shop right next door and he could have easily walked across to ask for a small loan, just enough to pay me, if they didn’t have change for 10. The amount could have been returned later in the day.

But he didn’t do that! I stared incredulously at the man for a few moments and walked away. I am sure he expected me to fetch the change, because the need was mine. Well, he had another guess coming. One is never desperate for gum … Not me, for sure!

Have you seen this happen – you walk into a store and the Salesperson doesn’t seem interested in your custom.

In another instance I walked into a white-goods outlet and saw the entire team in the store gathered in front of the TVs on display to watch India play Pakistan in an ODI match. They were so engrossed in the proceedings on TV that my presence was not noticed till I called out to get attention. And then it was a reverse tug-of-war with each of them trying to coax one of others to attend to my needs – I am sure each of them was saying “Killjoy!” in their head – it was quite evident from their expressions!

(Purely as an aside let me ask, have you noticed how during cricket matches in India the Policemen positioned at the periphery of the ground are seated with their backs to the audience and enjoying the match, while in England you would see them with their backs to the playing area to make sure that law and order is maintained in the stands. Now, who is the smart cop?)

The margin available on a packet of gum would not be significant, but if the Salesman were to repeat such behaviour on a regular basis the consequent loss of income in a month would be huge. And in both the examples given above it is likely that over a period of time less and less customers would show interest to do business with them.

Often it’s because the person is totally demotivated and lacking interest in his job – for a variety of reasons. This little convenience store on a side road would not be receiving much business on any given day and hence it makes the owner’s behavior monumentally stupid. One hopes that he has read the writing on the wall and shows more enthusiasm and interest in his customers.

If the entire complement of staff in the white-goods store were to focus on a game or behave in a lukewarm manner when customers walk in, the outlet would soon be on the chopper’s block – the owners would have to shut shop. This outlet belongs to a retail brand that has a number of outlets across the city. Poor performance on a regular basis at one outlet could cause a lot of negative publicity in the market that can impact the entire chain and potential loss of revenue for the stake-holders. Are the Supervisors / Managers aware of the situation?

I hope for their sake that my experience was an exception, a minor aberration, and that the behavior is more energetic and correct at most times.

It is essential for senior managers in the organization to sense-check what is happening in their empire. It shouldn’t be that things were rotten and the smell reaches them only after things are way beyond repair.

Employees need to be reviewed, trained and coached regularly to ensure that they battle ready and eager to provide service – they need to stay motivated all day, all year round. There is no room for complacency and slackness.

Customers need to sense that their presence is appreciated and that their patronage is valuable.

Sales Pros, please put your best foot forward and give them your best smile. The customer may not knock a second time because he has other options today.


The Customer is Watching!

May 3, 2012 9 comments

Honesty Integrity Ethics from

An envelope with a single A4 sheet (an Invoice) had to be sent to an address in New Delhi. Last week I had sent a similar consignment to the same address through DTDC Couriers – the franchisee near my place had charged Rs. 40/- for the service.

My trouble stated when I found the door of that outlet closed today – a poster on the door gave me the new address, but it was more than a kilometer away. Irritated with this development I headed downtown hoping to find a Courier Service there.

I found a few outlets, each charging a different amount for the same job.

The first counter I visited in town said it would cost me Rs. 280 – What!? Were they carrying the envelope in an aircraft made of Gold? Further enquiry revealed that this upmarket operator would take the same amount of time as the vanilla service provider, but the girl behind the counter proudly said “We are Blue Dart!” I thanked her enthusiastically for the new knowledge and went in search of a more earthly courier.

A DTDC franchisee was located just across the road and the Executive there told me that the Service Charge is Rs. 50. I said only last week a consignment had been sent to Delhi for just Rs.40/- through DTDC and she curtly replied “You can go back there and send your consignment; we can’t do it for less than Rs. 50/-. See the fee mentioned on the Tariff Card.” and she pointed to a regular A4 sheet pasted on the wall with the details printed on it.

I lost all interest in dispatching the document: it was a full-blown investigation now – this needed further study. I found the outlet of another Courier Agency, Professional Couriers, who were no different from DTDC and the Executive there showed me a printed A4 sheet that said Rs. 60/- to send a cover to New Delhi. Not satisfied, I found one more outlet of DTDC in the neighbourhood who had a Tariff Card with Rs. 60/- printed on it for the same location.

All of them had similar offices – which usually were 4X4 rooms, on a side street – manned by poorly-paid, unskilled and untrained people; all the operators took 48-72 hours to deliver the consignment at an address in New Delhi.

I can understand difference in prices across vendors, but how can the same operator charge the customer differently at three different outlets, located within a few kilometres of each other.

You would agree with me when I say that any brand can take a bad beating if the customer sees them behaving unethically or dishonestly. I wonder why DTDC permits its Franchisees to charge indiscriminately. Organisations need to pass on clear guidelines to their Channel Partners on pricing and business practices – and this has to be audited regularly. A locally printed A4 Sheet is not Gospel – that does not permit you to charge the customer indiscriminately.

As Managers, it’s important that you focus on integrity and ethics, not just within the organisation, but in the entire value-chain. Don’t ever permit the customer to walk away from your outlet feeling cheated. It can be a big blow to your reputation – that’s the beginning of the end for your business.

The customer is studying you with binoculars all the time …. Is the view Picture Perfect?

Here is the post script to my story – I went to the Speed Post Counter at the local Post Office, who is located closest to my residence, and booked the consignment for dispatch to New Delhi, for just Rs. 25/-!!!


P.S. – I am aware the Premium Hotels and Restaurants may charge you differently even for products with pre-stamped prices and some Up-market Business Centres may charge you higher for the services offered, but the regular street prices cannot change from counter to counter.

Categories: Ideas Tags:
%d bloggers like this: