Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: big picture

What happens when people can’t see the “big picture”

I am repeatedly surprised at how often people miss the big picture. Like the time when Costco’s online ordering system forced me to go to their competitor. And the several times when the management team at a large organization made bone-headed moves in order to save a few dollars but in the process destroyed employee morale (see below for links to those blog posts). Or this story, where once again, I am reminded of how prevalent this “can’t see the big picture” disease is!

big pictureMy in-laws moved into a senior-friendly apartment and so they were selling their home. To help them get their house ready for sale, I contracted with a company to replace all the flooring. On the last day of the job, the installer called me.

“As I went to put the toilet back on in the bathroom,” he said, “the tank broke.”

“It broke?” I asked.

“Well I didn’t do anything to it, it just broke,” he replied defensively. “It’s old, and I’m not a plumber. All I did was take it off to put down the floor tile, and then try to put it back on again. And it just broke.” Continue reading

Customer loyalty – easy to lose, but just as easy to keep

Just a few months ago, I blogged about a specific situation I experienced where a few ill-chosen words by a bank manager were able to destroy long-term customer loyalty in a matter of minutes.  Well, I’m sad to report that it’s happened again, another situation this time, but ironically still involving a(nother) bank.

One Friday afternoon in February, I was catching up on my banking and processed four transactions within three hours of each other.  Two were deposits into an account and two were transfers out of the same account.  What is key here is that all were intra-bank transactions, moving funds from one Royal Bank account to another.

Fast forward to last week when I was reconciling my bank statement and realized that I had been charged an account overdraft fee of $4.09.  Puzzled, I called customer service to find out what happened.  Turns out that while the two transfers out of that one account had been processed before 6 pm, the first deposit into the account had been posted at 6:01 pm and the second about 30 minutes later.  Apparently the rule is that transactions posted after 6 pm are recorded on the next business day, in this case on the following Monday.  So, in the system, the withdrawals were logged on Friday and the deposits were logged on the following Monday, three days later.  Ergo, the overdraft fee.

Customer loyalty is easy to lose …

While the overdraft fee was logically accurate because of the computer algorithm, it clearly didn’t make common sense, at least from a customer service perspective.  It was a simple timing error, and one that had zero impact to Royal Bank as all funds had been moved between Royal Bank accounts.  So I fully expected the phone agent to willingly acquiesce to my request to have the amount waived.  Imagine my surprise when he “put me on hold to talk to a supervisor”. Continue reading

Analyst versus leader – it’s important to know the difference

MagnifyingGlassBack in December 2012, I penned this post titled You can’t read the label from inside the bottle, which highlighted the danger of getting bogged downed in the details instead of seeking a big picture view  Recently, I observed an interaction between a supervisor and one of his employees that brought this issue to mind once again.  In this case, the supervisor was struggling between his identity as an analyst versus leader.

This particular supervisor had come up through the ranks in this process-oriented team, and was an expert on the detailed ins-and-outs of the department’s responsibilities.  Continue reading

Lack of client responsiveness … pushes customers to your competitors

It’s mind-boggling to me that so many companies still don’t understand the importance of making it easy for their customers to buy from them. In fact, I outlined two specific examples of customer service failure in Are you easy to work with? – a lesson in client responsiveness just less than a year and a half ago. Well I’m back again today with yet another stellar example of how to push revenue out the door and directly to your competitors.

WoodFurnitureJust recently, I was in the market for solid wood Canadian-made furniture, specifically six pieces for the bedroom. Since wandering from store to store is not my idea of a good time, my husband and I pored through manufacturer’s catalogues, both print and online, for months, looking for ideas and styles that caught our attention (and that were within our budget). A few weeks ago, we narrowed our interest down to three specific furniture lines. Despite the fact that I adore the convenience of online shopping, I knew that it was now time to look at them “in person” before we made the final purchase decision. So I fired off emails to the manufacturers (using the contact info on their websites, no less) asking them if there were any dealers in my area who had the specific lines in their showrooms. Two manufacturers wrote back to me within 24 hours, letting me know the names of stores that carried not only the lines I was interested in, but also information about several of their other products. One of them even let me know that they’d let a local store in the area know of my interest, and the next day, someone from the local store called me to follow up to see if I had any questions. The third company, well, I never heard from them. Continue reading

Are you easy to work with? – a lesson in client responsiveness

Frustrated business man waiting on the phone in a hotline queueBack in 2009, I blogged about how lack of client responsiveness led to a difficult experience trying to make an online purchase from the U.S. arm of the mega-company Costco.  Essentially, the company (at least back then, hopefully not now) was driven by its systems rather than the needs of its customers.  I was once again reminded of that situation with two recent experiences which gave rise to the topic of today’s blog … which is a question – Are you easy to work with?  And I don’t necessarily mean just as an individual, but also as a department, a division, or even a company?  As a leader, you have an area and scope of responsibility and my question relates to that as well – do your clients, customers, co-workers find you easy to work with?

Here are the two experiences that got me thinking about this question.  The first happened to a professional colleague who wanted to hire a service provider, but had to jump through hoops to even talk to this person.  Continue reading

Lack of strategic thinking by Air Canada misses opportunity to build goodwill

I often write about the piss-off factor – it’s when short-sighted and small-minded managers make decisions that discourage and turn off their employees and customers.  Like the time when the owner of a floor installation company lied just to avoid paying for a $200 repair.  Unfortunately, there never seems to be a shortage of examples proving that the piss-off factor is alive and well in corporate offices around the world.  And just recently, yet another example surfaced again.  Now I’ll start by saying that normally I’m an Air Canada fan.  In fact, I’m such a fan that I’ve blogged positively about them in the past (See Good leaders listen to customers and employees and Good leaders respond to customer feedback).  But in this recent situation, I think their management missed the mark, by a mile!  Let me explain.

AirplaneSeatsBecause I am a frequent flyer, Air Canada gives me a limited number of eupgrade credits that I can use for complimentary upgrades from the economy to business class cabin.  As someone who spends much of her working life in the air, this is a perk that I appreciate greatly.  And the more (distance) I fly with Air Canada, the more credits they give me at pre-assigned thresholds.  These eupgrade credits are on a request-only space-available basis.  Which means that I can make a request, and if (and only if) there are vacant unsold seats in the front cabin, I will receive an upgrade, often at the gate just before boarding.  When you think about it, it’s a great way for Air Canada to do something nice for their most frequent flyers and build immense goodwill; and at zero incremental cost since these are seats that would have gone empty anyway.  Great idea – but then they went and made a single bone-headed move that promptly destroyed the goodwill they’d worked so hard to build!  Continue reading

Training employees – GPS or paper map?

GirlMapGPSDo you remember when Global Positioning System (GPS) devices were not as ubiquitous as they are today?  I do.  I remember having no choice but to use paper maps; studying one before I went somewhere important, turning it sideways and upside down while standing at a street corner in order to orient myself in the right direction, and looking for other landmarks around me to pinpoint my location (once I realized that I was hopelessly lost).

Yes, I admit it, I love GPS devices!  After all, what could be easier?  A pleasant voice telling me to turn left, drive for 6 miles, turn right, make a U-turn and then arrive at my destination.  And if I happen to miss a turn, the just-as-pleasant reprimand — “recalculating”.  Continue reading

The piss-off factor. Short-sighted stupid actions by people in management


Aerial view of downtown Calgary on June 28, 2013

As most of you reading this blog probably know by now, much of the city of Calgary AB as been in a state of emergency since Thursday June 20 when heavy rains across southern Alberta lead to widespread flooding.  Downtown Calgary was evacuated that morning as flood waters breached the banks of the Bow River and groundwater began to swell.  Basements and underground parkades filled up quickly and water rose several feet in the main floors of many buildings.  In fact, as you can see in the photo, at one point, downtown Calgary streets could have been mistaken for the canals in Venice!  Starting last week, power has been restored to many neighborhoods and the giant clean-up effort has begun.  A few offices in downtown Calgary opened for business again on Tuesday June 25, and as the week continued more followed suit as additional buildings were cleared for safety and other requirements.  By all standards, this is probably the worst disaster Calgary has ever faced in its history as a modern city.  Which brings me to the subject of today’s post!

The piss-off factor.  I’ve blogged about the piss-off factor before (in fact, just last week) – it’s when short-sighted and small-minded managers do stupid things to discourage and turn off their employees.  Well, it’s alive and well, and surfacing yet again!  Continue reading

What happens when people can’t see the “big picture” – part 2

Earlier this week I told you about a recent experience that made me question (again) why it is that so many people lose their sense of perspective and are unable to see the “big picture” when it comes to making good decisions. I said in the last blog post that I had come across two recent examples, so here is the second one now.

Many of you know that I make my home in Calgary, Alberta, an area that experienced devastating floods last week as the two major rivers in the city overflowed their banks. Over 100,000 people were evacuated from just the downtown core alone, and as I write this, residents all over the city are only now beginning to dig themselves out of the mud. As the flood waters began to rise last Thursday, an unethical minority of merchants began to raise their prices in an attempt to profit from the desperation of people seeking basic supplies such as water, ice and food. As the price-gouging continued, some enraged citizens took to social media to complain about paying $49 for 24 bottles of water and $20 for a bag of ice. And they posted photos online as proof!

Continue reading

Focus on results, not on the process

I had a baffling experience at my local post office the other day.  It’s a small satellite office with only two counters available to assist customers, and as I walked up, I noticed that ropes were set up to guide customers in the queue as they waited for the next available agent.  Fortunately, there was nobody in line in front of me, so I was able to walk directly up to the only agent that was working that morning.  As I placed my envelope on the counter, she looked up and said, “Ma’am, you’ll have to go through the line.”  I thought she was joking as I looked back over both my shoulders, chuckled and said “There isn’t anyone in line.”  Her voice got a little firmer, “Please ma’am, I’ve been instructed that I cannot wait on you unless you come through the line.”  A little bewildered, I thought perhaps I was on a revival of the Candid Camera television show.  So I retraced my steps back through the short maze, turning right and then left and came to a stop beside the sign that said “Please Wait For The Next Available Agent.”  Sure enough, once I got there, she looked up at me and said, “Can I help you?”

As I walked out of the store after concluding my business, I didn’t know whether to laugh or shake my head in disbelief.  My first instinct was to berate the employee – I mean, what happened to common sense?  But then I realized that it was more the organization’s fault than the employee’s.  Someone in management had so strongly impressed upon this person the importance of tasks and processes that she completely lost sight of her overriding and ultimate objective which was to serve the customer efficiently and effectively.  This is a classic case of following directions blindly even if it gets you to the wrong destination.  Unfortunately, by laying too much emphasis on processes and procedures, management has set this employee up to fail.  It occurred to me that perhaps similar scenarios occur more often than we might realize.  In the pursuit of standardization, could you perhaps have inadvertently created a similar situation where the emphasis is now placed on the process rather than on the outcome?  Or have you seen examples similar to what I just experienced?  I’d love to hear from you.