Are your employees sending customers on a wild goose chase?


Over the weekend, I went into a local store to pick up a somewhat obscure hardware product. While I was there, I figured I’d check for another item on my shopping list: ice cube trays. I started by asking the people in the appliances department, where they happen to sell refrigerators and freezers. They confidently replied that ice cube trays were sold on the top floor, in the hardware department.

I headed up the escalator to hardware, and asked the staff where to find ice cube trays. They said they didn’t carry them in hardware, but I should check in the appliances department. So I explained that the appliances people were the ones who sent me there in the first place, but the hardware folks were insistent: they didn’t offer the product in the hardware department.

How does this sort of thing happen? Why was each set of employees under the impression that another department carried the product, only to lead me on a wild goose chase that led to frustration? Even if the store carried ice cube trays in the past, somebody was obviously working from old or just plain inaccurate data.

This scenario is frustrating for customers and inefficient for the retailer. To correct it, the store should invest in more staff education, focusing on which products they’ve stopped carrying, which ones they’ve added recently, and where popular items can be found. They could even just have the manager of each department give tours to staff from other departments on a monthly or quarterly basis, to help keep the info fresh. If I had to guess, it’s been a while since most retailers tried anything like this. That’s too bad, since they’re missing out on a low-cost way to make their sales staff more knowledgeable and efficient.