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Performance Culture and Retail

It’s easy to determine, very quickly, whether or not a performance culture exists in a retail company. Some customers will not recognize it for what it is - they will just be dissatisfied and leave with a bad impression.


A recent shopping trip to a store - one of many stores in a large, well recognized chain - indicated clearly, that a performance culture does not exist in that organization. I have shopped at several of their locations to purchase things for my home and car, for camping supplies, for Christmas lights and decorations, etc. I can’t say I have ever been really impressed with the service level offered, but I usually found what I was looking for and paid a reasonable price for it. They sell major brands and can generally be counted on to stand behind the merchandise they sell.


On this particular occasion I was looking for a small appliance for the home. I found coffee makers and mixers and toasters and just about every small appliance you can think of. What I was looking for, however, was not on the shelves – an electric can opener. That’s a pretty basic small appliance for the home, wouldn’t you agree?


This chain has been in business for many, many years and, in my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that they would not have an electric can opener for sale. So, assuming that I was just not looking in the right place, I sought out an employee to help me.


To be fair, I must tell you that there was a lot of merchandising going on at the time. Not that their merchandising schedule should be my concern – it should be done when the store is closed – but it did add to the confusion.


Anyway, the associate I found to help me definitely tried to help me find an electric can opener. He was somewhat embarrassed because he was certain they had them, he just didn’t know where they were. He was communicating via headset and tried several times to contact someone who would know where electric can openers were merchandised. He offered his apologies, for the delay and confusion, while I followed him around and around the small appliances department. In the end, he said that he was pretty sure they had can openers but no one knew where they were. He was sorry.


This was an excellent example of the lack of a performance culture. The associate was definitely a performance oriented individual but his colleagues and superiors – the ones he contacted for help – were not. In a truly performance oriented company, they would all have been on the same page. They would all have worked to find the electric can openers.


The loss of a sale of one electric can opener will not break the company. But you can be sure that this was not just an isolated incident. When the lost sales add up we all know what the result can be. Retailers who had been around for years are now gone.


A performance culture must be well defined, well communicated and constantly nurtured.

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