Yesterday I bought some light bulbs from Lowes. I realized when I got to the car that although the halogen bulbs looked the same, the pins were slightly off. I went back in, found the right bulbs and asked to exchange them. Same price, different SKEW, of course.
Hopefully someone from Lowe’s will read this blog entry and head their own tag line.
I would have to return the bulbs and then repurchase the new ones. No problem. Here’s the problem. The computer wasn’t updated. I had to wait, I was told, up to 20 minutes for the transaction to clear. I went to Costco, did my shopping, and then came back.
Before computers, a savvy customer service person (I know, we didn’t need customer service people before computers :)) would have just given me the new bulbs and said, "here you go sir, be happy." I think the Lowes person could have done that too, but she didn’t. She decided to act constrained and unempowered.
The deeper problem is that in our rush to productivity, we design systems that displace the dysfunction. In this case, the productivity of inventory control and rapid scanning by the sales clerk resulted in a customer would could turn a quickly realized mistake around.
This happens because we don’t design systems holistically, and in this case, Lowe’s did not design the work experience adequately for the sales clerk (who upon my return, was now the customer service representative).
All organizations should strive to design systems that are rational and to empower their people to deal with the irrationality that may remain by acting rational themselves.
(BTW, read Management by Design for ways to think yourself out of these problems before you create them – managementbydesign.biz)