A lesson in poor management from Polhill Garden Centre

How not to treat your staff…and customers

My other half likes to garden…No, hold on. My other half loves to garden. Meaning, he spends a lot of money in garden centres. Our local one, Polhill Garden Centre in Cambridge, has easily gobbled up over £1,000 of our hard earned cash this year.

“These two plant pots don’t fit with the rest of the design. We need to return them” he announces.

We arrive at the tills (there are only two in the whole store), show our receipt, and ask for a refund. Simple.

Except that at Polhill Garden Centre, the till staff are not authorised to refund customers. They have to call the store manager. So the young lady at the till counter calls him and we all wait…and we wait….and we wait some more. A good 5 minutes later, he turns up: “What’s up?” we hear.

“Euh…well, we just wanted a refund, but for some reason, only you can do it… Out of interest, why don’t you just train your till staff to process refunds as well as incoming payments? It would so much easier for everyone.”

“No. I have to do it. I can’t let anyone just give money away, can I!”

“Oh…I see, you don’t trust your staff…It’s just that if only they were empowered to handle all till work, we wouldn’t have had to wait quite so long.”

“I was busy with a customer. I came as fast as I could.”

How to deliver good customer service by empowering your staff

Aside from the sharp tone used by the store manager, clearly inept at receiving customer feedback, it might be a good idea for Polhill Garden Centre’s manager to trust its till staff.

Otherwise…why hire them?

Once you’ve hired them, train them to work at the till. Meaning, train them to handle all till work – not half of the till duties. It’ll mean customers won’t have to wait to be served and can have a pleasant experience in the store – not one that leaves them sour.

By empowering your staff, they can perform their duties quicker and with pride (rather than made to feel as if they are not good enough to do their work at the till); customers are served quickly; and managers can get on with their real work: run their store, sort out real problems, engage with customers, learn from their feedback, and improve the store to make the shopping experience more pleasant and make customers want to spend more or come back more often.

Simple really. Treat your staff with respect and the rest follows.


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