I say tomatoes, they say, what? Be sure your team has answers

“Yes, we sell organic heirloom tomatoes again this season in our store,” I typed. “In fact, there’s a tasting going on this weekend.” I added the store information, and attached the event flyer, then clicked, Send.

By we, I mean the company I monitor e-mail for. Not we as in me personally. I’m not the one growing organic heirloom tomatoes nor am I the one that owns a store. On behalf of my client, I try to give good information and customer service, so I do invest personally in each message.

Later in the afternoon my e-mail chimed and I had a return message from the tomato inquirer. “I called the store and they said they don’t have your organic heirloom tomatoes this year.” I immediately provided the store manager’s name and personal contact information, but said I’d confirm and get back to her by phone this time. I suspected that the employee that answered the store phone was new.

What I found was that the customer called and asked for farm named organic tomatoes, when in fact, the organic tomatoes sold in the store come from several local growers and are put together by heirloom type in produce baskets. So true enough, the employee would not see a basket with the farm name in the tomato type, but indeed, the store sells organic heirloom tomatoes!

Frustrating situation for everyone! The collective we, ended up looking silly. I know I felt silly. This situation can apply as an example to most everyone that deals with clients, customers, or members or patrons.

Cutting training corners ends up costing in my opinion. In one of my very first jobs, training began with 90 days probation and intense training in a employee manual that was 4 inches thick. We were paired with a more experienced employee and tested and retested on the materials before we were set off to represent and serve the public on our own. Now days, most training looks far different. We hope people come to us with good work ethic, team spirit, and a serving heart. Often they don’t.

What can be done? What would you do? We could talk about training and team building but let’s move forward with what we have. It goes without saying leadership is key. In this situation the bar needs to be set higher for basic product and service knowledge which starts with listening. If there is any doubt, it should be encouraged to pass the question to someone who can correctly answer, but even better, who can teach how to answer better. In this case, I’d like to see a tag team habit of passing along information, communicating what’s new, what’s coming up, where to find answers.

This area isn’t up to me. I’m just a contracted worker, but I feel called to help lead people up in the way they should go. First, I should take my own advice and listen, but I also need to be a teacher. And before any more time is spent in meetings looking backward, talk about what’s important, the mission at hand, equipping, and supporting our work, our clients, customers, patrons, and members in the future.

And for me, caring about the work, in His Name.



About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
This entry was posted in Work & Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to I say tomatoes, they say, what? Be sure your team has answers

  1. nance marie says:

    are you suggesting that people talk to one another instead of text? i'm not sure that people still know how to talk.

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