On a recent outing to that most loved or loathed of South African institutions – Builders Warehouse – I was hardly through the front door when I was met by the words, “Can you rate my service?” What alarmed me most was that, when asked this question, I had not received any service at all. It goes without saying that giving any rating in this instance, whether favourable or not, would mean nothing to either the customer or to Builders Warehouse.

My guess is that Builders had implemented some kind of carrot or stick strategy, aimed at driving employees towards better service by collecting service ratings from customers – and using those ratings to either reward or punish their employees.

The trouble with this kind of management style is that the employee then acts from a place of very little, if any insight. Their style of service becomes intrusive and annoying. And worst of all, the research generated yields highly inaccurate results.

In this unfortunate scenario, we are presented with a system that should work well, but in practice has gone so horribly wrong. On the one hand, it opens up an opportunity for valuable customer service research but on the other – falls short when the research holds no value. So, when does an employee rating system actually work?

Enter Uber – the wildly successful, international public transportation company that recently celebrated its second birthday in South Africa. To those familiar with Uber, their process is beautifully simple. At the end of your ride, you rate your driver on a scale of one to five. Your rating – along with the driver’s acceptance rate (how often the driver accepts a pick-up request within Uber’s 15-second timeframe) – determines whether the driver has a future with Uber or not. The result: only 2.3% of drivers are at risk of deactivation.

By coupling customer satisfaction with employee ambition, Uber has crafted the ultimate recipe for success. Admittedly, comparing retail to transportation does bring a certain apples and oranges metaphor to mind – but management should, in essence, be universal.

Over the course of the last century, two main forms of management have dominated the workplace, broadly known as Theory X and Theory Y. Each subscribes to one of two extremes. Theory X takes a pessimistic view – assuming that employees are lazy, dislike work and have to be micromanaged. Theory Y, on the other hand, is X’s optimistic opposite. Giving employees the benefit of the doubt, it assumes that people are ambitious and self-driven.

Before shunning either approach, it should be noted that they have worked, in one form or another, for a long time. All people have a need to achieve, but also have a need for security and direction. The key, then, is striking a balance between trusting your employees and providing them with the parametres in which to thrive.

Drawing from both schools of thought, consider the following three motivators:

  1. Keep it interesting
    As obvious as it sounds, people are motivated by interesting work. But in many cases, the work itself holds very little interest for most. In these cases, finding what aspect of the work fuels your employee – be it working with people or staying abreast of the latest technology may be key.By seeking out opportunities for your team to build their skills and practise them, you will have tapped into your most valuable resource – a motivated workforce.
  1. Get creative
    While few businesses can compete with Google and Apple in this regard, building a participatory, creative workplace could build you a reputation for being employee friendly – which, in turn, attracts a larger talent pool.But this kind of working environment slants more towards the Y-Theory style of management, which means trust – and lots of it. Your first steps, then, to giving your business a creative makeover are asking your staff for ideas, offering them creative opportunities, and opening doors to their suggestions.
  1. Increase responsibility
    Once you have allowed for a more innovative working environment, letting employees drive their outcomes – and letting them use some discretion in achieving their objectives – will go a long way in garnering trust.

In the end, it is your company’s ability to connect with its customer base that will guarantee its success. Taking a more creative approach to management may be easier said than done, but perhaps finding the link between your employees and your customers holds the secret to success.

From a customer experience standpoint, Builders Warehouse sits on a goldmine. For the most part, its customer is there for the tools to improve the space they hold most dear – the one in which they live. Getting their employees to understand what they have to offer their customers may unlock their greatest potential.


James Cook, 11 February 2015, uk.businessinsider.com

Chris Joseph, (no date available), smallbusiness.chron.com

Lisa Jo Rudy, 7 March 2014, business.tutsplus.com

Rick Wartzman, 8 January 2013, www.forbes.com

Ray Williams, 25 November 2013, business.financialpost.com

View another nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: How Customer Experience Impacts Bottom Line Growth

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