Yesterday, I found myself at a traffic light behind a company truck. The truck belonged to and advertised a dog waste removal company. I pondered this. For a while, I wondered what the job interview was like. But as the light turned green and traffic started to move, I noticed something else. The truck was sporting a bumper sticker that read:
Your Life is not My Problem.
I turned my pondering up a notch. “How is it,” I wondered “that in this one moment, frozen in time, the dog poop guy seems to be looking down on my life?” Now, don’t get me wrong. This guy, perhaps even the owner, had a company, did honest work, and maybe even made a killing performing a service hordes of people would pay to avoid having to do. But why was his employee insulting me. And did the company’s owner know it?
And this led me to my question:
How many owners realize the hidden (and not-so-hidden) messages their employees are sending?
Several years ago, Walgreens faced a lawsuit over just this issue — only in more extreme form. It seems that Walgreens pharmacy employees entered their thoughts on various customers in the comments field of the company’s perscription software. There, stapled right to a perscription for a customer’s anti-anxiety medication, was a print out featuring some anonymous employee’s assessment “She’s CRAZY.”
Now maybe she is, and maybe she isn’t. But one thing we know for sure. Walgreens has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to convince the public that it is a friendly neighborhood pharmacy. How much money, then, did this one errant employee flush down the drain with one careless, or in this case, incredibly stupid example of personal expression?
Appearances matter. If your employees have customer contact, check every aspect of the interaction.
- What do the outgoing voice mail messages say?
- Look for bumper stickers on vehicles used for delivery — political, religious, or even humorous. What’s funny to one is insulting to another.
- Listen to how your employees express themselves. Do they have a penchant for telling ethnic jokes or making sexist comments in an attempt to be funny? Some people do these things so often they don’t even notice them anymore.
Can you see your company through your prospective customer’s eyes? If the dog waste company could, they might have taken the time to ponder that bumper sticker.