Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Update: The Steve LeVeille Broadcast

Ben Goodman, the force behind the immensely successful Bring Back Steve LeVeille campaign launched in January in response to WBZ's decision to lay off LeVeille and replace his overnight program with a syndicated one, will be live in the studio during tonight's Broadcast.

Goodman isn't certain whether he'll be on air or not (knowing LeVeille, my bet is "yes"), but he received the invite when he called in during LeVeille's first night back on the air.

For all of you who supported the effort to bring Steve back to WBZ's airwaves, and for those who just may have been interested in passing by the pieces I wrote on this blog here and here, tune in tonight to WBZ 1030 AM, or listen to live streaming of the broadcast on WBZ's website, tonight from midnight to 5:00. You just may hear the voice of the fellow who started the wave!

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The Cost of Being "Nice"

Bottles of KahlĂșa photographed with a Canon Po...Image via Wikipedia

No sooner do I put up a post declaring that nothing has caught my eye or ear to rant about lately than, sure enough, Stupidity pops its ugly head out of its hole and yells "Hey Bryan...over here!"

Pennsylvania's Liquor Control Board announced that this month it will begin a campaign to train the state's 4000+ State Store employees in the art of common courtesy. Basically, how to be nice to customers.

For those of you who live in states that do not have the bizarre and outdated alcohol laws that we have here in good ol' PA, the State Store is the only place where you can purchase wine and liquor. Let me stress: the ONLY place. It is, in essence, a government-imposed monopoly. Apparently, state-wide, the feeling of those people who work behind the registers at these State Stores is "Why should I have to act humanly towards these people? It's not like they can take their business elsewhere!"

As a part of what the LCB's chief executive Joe Conti calls "...the renaissance of the Liquor Control Board," an effort needs to be made to correct this perceived behavior. Hence, a training program focusing on how to pleasantly greet a customer, perhaps help with the customer's purchase, and how to thank the customer and invite him back after the transaction is complete.

You know: manners. The stuff your parents should have taught you when you were a child.

Now, I have no problem whatsoever with the idea of teaching those in any service-oriented job the importance of being polite and helpful to the customer. It seems, sadly, that basic customer service is swiftly going the way of the dinosaur; customer service that goes above and beyond to help with a purchase or answer questions is rarer still. More than one pundit has declared recently that those businesses which begin practicing stronger customer service are the ones most likely to survive and perhaps thrive in this tough economic world.

I should also point out that, in my dealings with State Store employees over the years, I have never run into a clerk who was less than pleasant. Where these rudely grunting oafs of employees who need to be retrained are I don't know. If we're going to teach anyone how to better treat the customer, it should be the nation's grocery store checkout folks. "Lesson one: Don't chomp your gum while scanning my produce. Lesson two: I'm right in front of you. Don't yell over my head to the next checkout person about how hard you partied last night..."

But, for whatever reason, the State feels this is necessary. OK. So how hard can this be? Maybe a day-long seminar with a morning lesson and afternoon role-playing, run on location by each store's manager?

No. To do this, the state of Pennsylvania feels it necessary to hire an outside consulting firm, the Pittsburgh-based Solutions 21, to spend the next year (!) facilitating this training at a cost of over $170,000 dollars.

Let me repeat that: A full year at more than $170,000 to teach people to say "Hello," "May I help you?" and "Thank you, please stop by again!" with a smile on their face.

And it gets better: The president of Solutions 21, the consulting company hired at this unreal rate to perform this virtually unnecessary training? Married to the LCB's Pittsburgh area regional manager. Of course, they see "no conflict of interest" in this arrangement.

Let me make this offer to Governor Rendell: I'll save the state thousands of dollars right now. I don't even ask for reimbursement at all - it's this simple: print out the announcement I've written below and pass it out to all state store employees.

Attention all PA State Store Employees - new procedures in effect immediately!

1. When a customer enters the store, smile and say "Hello!"

2. If the customer appears to be struggling with his choice of beverage, offer to help by smiling and saying "May I help you find something?"

3. If a customer asks a question, smile and answer it to the best of your ability.

4. After concluding the transaction with the customer, smile and say "Thank you for your business. Please stop by again!"

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