Mixed Messages

Sometimes when interacting with organizations you receive mixed messages.  They say that they value something, but your experience is completely different.  Another issue common among chains is that there’s not a consistent experience from one location to another.  Case in point:

Situation 1:

We bought something at Target and later realized that we needed two instead of one.  We looked at the location close to our home, but they were out.  So, we called one of the other stores in the area to see if they had them in stock before we drove out there.  The department staff person tracked them down for us so we knew it wouldn’t be a wasted trip.  This was not an expensive item (maybe $7).  She then kept them with her until we got there (1-2 hours later) so that she could make sure that they didn’t sell out and we got what we needed.

Although, someone at Corporate might not have been really excited about her holding merchandise for us, which is apparently against company policy, she offered stellar customer service with a great attitude.  After we met her and she helped us with our request, she asked if there was anything else she could help us find or do for us.  We were thoroughly impressed with her and with Target.

Situation 2:

A couple of weeks later we were doing some Christmas shopping, and we accidentally bought a pair of pants that was the wrong size as a gift for someone.  Anyone who consistently shops at Target knows about the dreaded return policy.  A quick google search will lead you to plenty of interesting opinions about the policy.  As soon as we realized what we’d done we began dreading the return.

I was supposed to leave the receipt out the next morning for my wife, but I forgot.  My wife tried to exchange the pants the next day, without the receipt and they would not let her exchange them.  The pants were even on sale the next day, and she said that she didn’t expect to get the sale price, she just wanted to exchange them for the correct size.  Their computer system allows for scanning the item and tells them what store it was purchase at and when (in this case the day before at that same store – but with my card instead of hers so they could not give her a refund).  No help.

While I understand that a strict return policy helps keep prices low and enables them to pass the best values on to customers, in that moment my wife felt anything but valued.  Our two experiences sent conflicting messages about their commitment to customer care.  If you lead a team or organization – What messages are you sending to those who interact with you (intentional or unintentional)?  Are they consistent or are you sending mixed messages?  If you have multiple locations, do you create consistent experiences and levels of service at every location/branch/campus/store, etc.?

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