Properly Incent Your Employees

Feb 25, 2008 by

Today, I had an extremely amusing experience while picking up several shirts that I had left at the dry cleaners ten days prior. I had visited four days ago, when I was told that my shirts would be ready, only to be told to come back a few days later. Today, the man at the counter told me that it was unlikely my shirts were ready, as the cleaners had been rather busy. I asked him to check for them, and it turned out that they had been cleaned. I examined the shirts upon receiving them, and the following dialogue ensued:

Adam: It appears that one of my shirts is very wrinkled, and has a spot on it.

Cleaner: You know, you really don’t need to take your shirts to the dry cleaners. I wash all of my shirts, and iron them too!

Adam: But, these aren’t any old shirts. These are special dress shirts that need dry cleaning. I wash and iron my “normal” shirts myself.

Cleaner: Well, I even wash and iron my dress shirts and tuxedo shirts. If you want it done right, you should do it yourself. You don’t need to take them to the cleaners.

Adam: Do you use spray starch? I like my shirts starched.

Cleaner: Nope! All you really need is some water and an iron. Nonetheless, if you really want, we can go back over the shirt for you.

Anyway, the reason that this dialogue amused me is that the man working at the dry cleaners actively tried to discourage me from using the services of his employer. He strongly advocated that I do the job myself, and even suggested that he would not have shirts cleaned by his employer! (I know the man is an employee, as I have met the owners of the cleaners.) Employees like this hurt business. Why would I want to trust a dry cleaner that even the man cleaning my clothing would not trust?

I would bet that the employee is paid some sort of fixed wage, and does not benefit financially from the level of sales of the dry cleaner. If he had, perhaps he would not have made such an active effort to scare away a customer! Perhaps it is a prejudice of mine, but when buying goods and services from small businesses, I really prefer to patronize owner-operated businesses to businesses that are run by employees that do not share in the profits. Owner-operated businesses often provide me with better service because the owners have a vested interested in my returning.

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  1. I’ve always been amazed how many jobs pay a flat wage. I don’t see why an employer would want to do this, when any sort of bonus, commission, or profit sharing system would create better customer service and more wealth for all. So many times I’ve had similar experiences to yours. I admit I do work at such a job myself, but it’s for a cooperative so I am part owner and benefit from my efforts in other ways. I also have a small business (see link) where I’m in control of how much I make.

  2. Tina

    I have to agree with you. So many employees have no incentive to increase business and are just putting their time in to get their meager wage. A bonus for increasing sales would be a nice start for some of these businesses.

  3. Jessica Soto

    In a case like this you have to read between the lines. Maybe the employee knows something you don’t. If the business is doing something it shouldn’t or not doing something it should then this is the employee’s way of telling the customer. As an employee of many different fields I know that when I believe in something or someone I will try my hardest to keep customers coming back for more. But the opposite is true, if something fishy is going on I will not be so willing to do so because I feel guilty as a participant.

  4. Good point, Jessica. I guess the fishiest thing that I noticed was that my shirts came back from the cleaners more wrinkled than they were when I dropped them off.

  5. Sharing profits in a small business might be difficult, but would go a long way. By providing incentives to the employees this might in turn bring about increased business and costumer satisfaction, guaranteeing more business. Unfortunately, people are people, even financially satisfied employees can be disgruntled and unhappy. Leaving only the theatre of interaction with the customer to show discontent.

  6. Christina

    I am amazed that even when an empoloyer does provide commissions in addition to a decent hourly wage employees still act as if they do not care if a customer returns to do more business there or not. We are living in a day and age where you can no longer assume that an employee cares about their place of employment and there is no longer loyalty to that employer. Currently being a small business owner, I am constantly loosing business because owners can not be there everytime the doors are open. When owners are there and managing the counters, business is good.

    I also enjoy contributing to the small businesses in my community and prefer to deal directly with the owners whenever possible. It is so great to deal with someone that you know CARES about the customer.

  7. smith

    I have to agree with you. So many employees have no incentive to increase business and are just putting their time in to get their meager wage. A bonus for increasing sales would be a nice start for some of these businesses.

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