How The Brilliant Can Display Stupidity

In today’s world of specialization one thing is becoming clearer to me by the day: The more specialized people are becoming, the more compartmentalized their world or business view is. Meaning: They’re so focused on themselves and what they’re doing, they have no idea of what, how, and sometimes why or where their actions fit into the larger view. As far as they’re concerned, if they do their job – then as long as everyone else does theirs – everything will be just “perfect.”

I’m here to say not only is this foolish thinking, it shows just how far “specialization” has run off the rails into a Mensa populated train wreck.

Personally I see this happening in far too many places at an alarming rate. Whether it be within the corporate structure itself or, the hired outside consultant/training firm that’s hired to “train” employees and others in X, Y, or Z. You can spot them a mile away. (I can spot them over the Earth’s curvature but, that’s me.)

Usually they’re rushing around a room or office as if caught in some unseen vortices, slung too and fro from one patron or worker to another, asking questions, giving directions, etc. Try to stop this person as to ask something and everything answered ends with that annoying, “Thank Youuuuu!” (I would love to know the name of the so-called “guru” that is pushing the say “thank you” after every statement. It’s probably the same one training every waiter and waitress to ask every 30 seconds: “How is everything?” When I clearly have a mouthful of food or, engaged in conversation. It’s stupid.)

Let me give an example. Usually the dialogue goes something like this:

Me: Hello. Might you know where the restrooms are located?
Them: Why yes! They’re right down the corridor to the left! Does that answer your question?!
Me: Yes it does and……(before I can finish my statement of thanks they blurt out )
Them: Thank Youuuuuuuu! (Usually with that annoying high-pitched emphasis on the “Thank” followed by the youuuuu.)

Now I’m not picking on the use of “thank you” per se. However, what I’ve noticed is this seems to now be a characteristic that’s hard to miss to any trained eye. Usually the person displaying these verbal cues are the lead person in whatever the en devour that involves human interactions. i.e., customer service, sales trainers, etc.

The issue that many just don’t grasp when it comes to hiring specialized trainers/consultants is this: Although someone can specialize in any given activity. If they don’t know how it incorporates into the overall structure of the business – the brilliant can do (or teach) the most stupid of things unknowingly. I’ll use a recent personal example that happened to me a few weeks ago…

My wife and I went to a well-known wholesale club during their grand opening event. We didn’t belong to this one however, we do belong to its competitor. We had never been inside this one and since we were close to renewal we thought let’s check them out and see if we might want to switch. So off we went…

The parking lot was full, the place seemed to be running on all cylinders. We approached the door where a greeting person stood and asked, “Can we go in?” We were told no and instructed to go to the “sign up tables” that were manned by 20 or so seated “associates” and to wait our turn.

We looked at each other and thought: “Odd but OK. Maybe it’s because it’s the first opening.” And so we waited in line to be called. (You can usually walk into any club store and browse, you just can’t purchase until you sign up.) Finally it’s our turn and we take a seat across from our “associate.”

I said, “Hi. We don’t want to sign up today. We just want to take a look around the store and see the offerings first. Do we need a visitors pass or something?’ Immediately I get some blank look. Then she say’s, “Ummm, no I’m not sure about that. Let me ask.” (“Let me ask?” I’m wondering.) She then proceeds to whom I can tell is a “contracted sign up specialization trainer.” I intuitively know this by her demeanor and can summarize she is about to go on stage showing everyone what to do in this type of situation. For this is her “theater.”

She proceeded to instruct the person that it’s “OK” and to take us through the store and show us around. I look at this person and say, “Excuse me but, we don’t need a tour guide. We just want to look around and see the store as to see if it’s something we want to consider.” She then responds with, “No I’m sorry, she has to go with you to answer any questions you might have.” I said, “I understand but we don’t want to sign today. We just want to look around. ” Her answer? “How will you know where products are in the store? Or, to answer your questions?”

She wasn’t letting us in without a tour guide. My wife chirped in as she could see the aggravation growing in my tone and said, “That’s OK, we’ll come some other time.” I thought is was to save me from myself, it wasn’t. My wife was far more aggravated at the situation than I was aware. For you see my wife not only knows about “customer service.” She has been awarded the highest award given by the state of Massachusetts for “Excellence in Customer Service” and, was personally awarded this distinction in a ceremony presented to her by the Governor himself. So to call her an expert in that field is a little of an under statement.

Here’s what was really at issue. It’s two-fold.
First: It’s one thing as to want to provide “great” customer service. However, what was happening in actuality was ticking off a potential customer because of some methodology was being enforced. A methodology where in this persons eyes. “Without a personal tour guide we couldn’t figure out what to do or look at.

We would be like babes in the woods. Without guidance. Lost, in the vast jungle of a warehouse store. And, it was her duty not to let that happen. Regardless if it were a policy or not.

The second issue was this: We said right up front we did not want to join today. We were, “Just looking.” Behind us, waiting for a seat, was a line of paying, wanting to join now patrons.

To take someone away from that table and spend valuable time as to “show” someone around. Someone who has already stated they don’t want to join today. Instead of keeping personnel at that table to take actual legal tender from willing new customers, waiting in line for the opportunity is not only foolish – it’s moronic.

It also clearly shows – all one cares about is their special project or dominion. They can’t see past their world. Their world is flat. Meaning, once you fall off their edge, what happens after is not of their worldly concern.

As you may have guessed. We left. Not in a huff, but, we made it clear thanks – but no thanks. No one tried to stop us. No one tried or thought, “wait a second something isn’t right here.” No, without a tour guide she decided we were not worth the time, and off we went.

Personally I was a little taken back and expressed how foolish the company was allowing such to happen. Obviously they aren’t shopping their own stores or processes. My wife on the other hand was not finished.

Just as to give some background, my wife is a very quiet individual. Rarely does anything get her dander up. However, she was far more ticked off at this situation than I was. So much so she decided to express her dismay to the company itself.

I’ll put her entire letter here. I’ll only post a portion of the responses she received.  I don’t want to have to redact many other names so I’ll just post the highlights that pertained to if we were correct and, if they thought so. Along with how they would handle it. Just so you know, her letter went to the top and was replied to individually from each all the way down through the corporate structure. I’ll give them credit for not allowing the “letters” to go into some black hole never to be seen or responded to.

Here’s hers:

“Dear XXXXX,

Today I was excited about visiting your brand new store in the XXXXX area of XXXXX.  My husband and I had been members of XXXXX for many years now and we wanted to see what options XXXXX had that XXXXX didn’t.  All our friends were telling us XXXXX has much more of a variety so we ventured out on opening weekend to see for ourselves. Plus our membership for XXXXX was ending the end of next month, we were thinking of not renewing.

Once we got there they had a line for people to sign up for membership.  We weren’t going to sign up just yet as we wanted to stroll the store first.  XXXXX was still a nice place to shop and until we viewed what this store had to offer we were not going to make any quick decisions.  We stood in line until it was our turn to speak to a representative.  Once we were called to the table my husband asked if we could just go in and view the store, we were not signing up just yet.  The representative told us not without a guide.  We thanked her but stated we did not need a guide, we know what these types of warehouses entails but having never been to this particular store we just wanted to browse through it.  Again she said we could not without a guide because we may have questions.  Now XXXXX, I do understand the importance of customer service, having worked in the business for over 20 years but we are not grade school children who need an explanation of the bread and cookie aisle nor is this a national monument where a history lesson needs to be given in the meat and seafood section. It didn’t seem as if it mattered to her what our preference was, she was not going to let us in without somebody walking us through it.
I do know that XXXXX XXXX and XXXXXXXX offer people who are not members to come into the store and see for themselves what they have to offer.  Is that not the same policy for XXXXX as well? Most establishments offer the shop before you buy option.

Also, what I could not comprehend were these key points:
1—this representative who was signing up paying customers for membership would remove herself from that position of sales  (and there were a lot of people in line) in order to walk us through a store rather than allow us the opportunity to view it ourselves.
2—she knew we were a XXXXX member and wanted to comparison shop, why would she, as a XXXXX employee, not feel 100% certain that by allowing us in we could easily be sold on the idea of XXXXX?  It doesn’t say much for her belief in the company.
3—we were allowed to leave the premises without one single representative, and there were 8 of them within earshot, stopping us and rethinking that decision.

I can say I was extremely embarrassed having to be turned away like that.  My husband and I would be your perfect customers, we fit into your demographics, we buy in bulk, and if it’s shiny and pretty we buy it!

I felt I had to write you this letter, I normally am not a vocal customer but as I mentioned in the beginning of my letter I was super excited to walk into your store today, imagine what a big let down it was to be turned away just because we declined a guided tour.  I guess XXXXX will get our renewed membership for next year.

Thank you for your time.”

Here’s the response that either validated our conception of right or wrong, and if they agreed or, would just give some blah, blah, blah, canned sorry response:

“Dear ……

I feel terrible about how this situation was handled. However, I do understand your concerns and I want to inform you the membership person that helped you and your husband has misinterpreted what we were attempting to achieve. What you should have been asked, was would you like to be taken through the warehouse to view the departments and have us point some of the advantages of membership along with the differences between our XXXXX Membership, our XXXXX Membership, and the advantage of our XXXXX.

Once you requested, you just wanted to look around, they should have just informed our member service personnel at the entrance and allowed you to do so. Why you were told you could not enter without an escort was an error in judgement.

Again, please accept my apologies, and your comments and concerns have been addressed. Since receiving your letter this morning I have informed everyone to stop this practice immediately. In this case a good intention, to inform potential members about the advantages of our membership, turned into to an unfortunate incident. Thank you for bringing this to our attention and I hope you accept my apology and give us a second chance.”

That is the most illustrative of the responses she received and why I posted it.

I must give credit where credit is due. They actually read customer (or non customers) correspondence. Then, without a canned response, they addressed what we stated and, either agreed or disagreed. Then explained what should have taken place.

This was followed with an immediate change and notification to the affected personnel as to try to insure this misunderstanding doesn’t happen with others. Followed with direct contact telephone #’s to the management responsible if we needed any further questions answered.

Responding in this manner shows they truly are trying. It’s just a shame it took a letter from my wife to point out this was happening. For you must assume – We were not the only ones this has happened to.

It’s one thing to put someone who seems they are brilliant in their circle of expertise and let them control that universe. However, if you’re not also shopping your own stores, front line managers, personnel, et al. And leaving it up to, “Well, they’re experts in that department.” You could just be allowing brilliant people to make stupid decisions that can cost you real dollars down the line.

And just to put any thoughts as to where we might have been mistaken in our assumptions. After we were refused entry we decided to visit a mall in a neighboring city. As we drove in we noticed right there was another one of their stores. We looked at each other and said: “What are the chances?” So we parked, walked in the store, and were met by the greeting person as to show our membership card. I said. “We aren’t members yet but, can we take a look around?” Her response?

“By all means please do. Just be aware you can’t purchase anything unless you become a member.”

This person displayed competent, empowered, brilliance.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr