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An unwanted delivery

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Staff wearing uniforms or dealing with customers are an important link in promoting a business.
Millions of dollars can be spent on advertising and PR, but all this can come crashing down if staff aren’t trained to deal with out of the ordinary situations. 
I recently heard a story that’d have to be a worry for any business.
Edward was walking to the bus stop after work one evening when he witnessed what could’ve been quite a disastrous car accident in Queen Street Woollahra. 
A car turned right out of a small laneway, but hadn’t taken notice of a truck making its way along the main road. The truck did have the right of way and had to come to an abrupt stop behind the car, which was now waiting in traffic because of a red light. 
Close calls can shake even the most hardened of people, and that’s why we have the car horn – to warn others we are there.
Edward knew the truck belonged to a major courier company for two reasons:
  • The driver was wearing a unique and well-known company uniform
  • The company’s brand name was emblazoned all over the truck!
After the truck driver slammed on the breaks, he blasted the horn and kept it pressed for a long time. This, of course, brought a lot of attention to the scene. 
Using the horn is a normal reaction to this type of situation, and anyone who saw the incident could not have blamed the driver for acting any differently in the face of this near calamity.
What followed, however, was not needed. The courier opened his window, and leaning out of it, made an unscheduled delivery to the car at fault in the form of some very harsh language. 
Then, with a smirk on his face, the driver began making rude sarcastic remarks about the car driver’s lack of skill on the road. All the while, another employee in uniform sitting in the passenger seat of the truck laughed, obviously under the impression that his colleague was on par with Billy Connolly. The swearing was in the same league, but it should be left to the professionals on stage!
We all make mistakes on the road and in this case, it’s lucky no contact was made between the two vehicles, because it would have been a catastrophe.
But the big issue here is how the courier company is now perceived in Edward’s eyes, not to mention the other people walking along the main road who witnessed this employee’s tirade. 
Had the driver just beeped his horn, and perhaps uttered a few unheard expletives inside the cabin of the truck, people would not have thought twice about the incident, and it would be impossible to blame the truck driver for bad driving. With the employee taking it a step further, swearing and carrying on, the company has been tarnished in Edward’s eyes and probably all the other people walking along the street that afternoon. 
Now take into account that this courier company is an international business, and some of Edward’s business associates are overseas. Stories like this travel at rapid pace and getting a bad reputation via word of mouth is arguably the worst promotion a company can get. A lot of money can be spent on advertising and public relations, but the damage has already been done.
Kick bad habits before they form
So how do you prevent damage done to the company by the wrong type of reaction to difficult circumstances? 
The answer is proper training.
  • Raise the issue before it happens. A driver is obviously going to have such experiences or worse during the course their day on the road, so it’s important they know how to handle the situation and have the skills to deal with it professionally. The same can be said for staff in retail, for example, who are going to deal with customers who demand refunds or are just plain difficult. Make sure staff are prepared.
  • Get feedback from employees about issues they may have had with customers, or in their working day. Discuss how it could be handled, or how to deal with situations that can’t otherwise be prevented.

Let staff know that when they’re in uniform, or if they mention the name of the business, they’re representing the company. If they are off duty, but are wearing the uniform, they’re still representing the company 

Published on: Thursday, April 30, 2009

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