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yet more arbitrary things to measure your performance February 17, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Sales Floor Stories.
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Look very carefully at the comic below. (click here to see a larger version)

Penny Arcade, 7/25/05

Penny Arcade, 7/25/05

See the sign on the store counter? It says:

Preorder something or get the fuck out of the store

You’ve probably noticed by now that your company has come up with more and more arbitrary ways to measure your performance. They usually do this by forcing you to do work that’s:

  • not in your job description
  • takes more time to complete than your actual assigned work
  • used to be done by someone who’s since been downsized
  • mostly a waste of your time
  • in the end reflects poorly upon you because you haven’t been trained to do it properly

In my college days, I worked at a video game store in a mall. It was a retail job, and I enjoyed it because it dealt with things I liked — video games. But shortly after I was hired, I realized that I wasn’t being judged on things like “customer satisfaction”, “good customer service”, or even “how much money is taken in by transactions with your employee number on them”. No, I was judged by these four items:

  1. Pre-ordered items per day. Despite what the customer actually came into the store to buy, it was our job to get them to commit to an item via pre-order, so we had to figure out what sorts of things were coming out soon that the customer might be willing to drop $10 on.
  2. Call list entries per day. If we couldn’t get them to pre-order, we had to at least put them on a call list so we could call them when the game came out. Toward the end of the day, I often stopped selling pre-orders so I could put people on my call list.
  3. Service plans. This happens at almost every store — service plans are almost 100% profit. But at our store, it was very difficult to sell them mostly because people didn’t come to our store to buy systems; they came to buy games. You can’t sell a service plan on a game.
  4. MSTs — multi-SKU transactions. A transaction didn’t count unless you sold the customer more than one item at a time. Very difficult to do when the majority of your customers are middle- and high-school kids who save up enough money to buy one game and that’s it.

The really tough part is that middle management knows exactly what’s happening with these arbitrary forms of performance measurement: if an employee does too good, then the company has no reason not to give a bigger raise when it’s review time. But by implementing something measurable and unattainable, it’s easy to say “you got a lot of great comments from customers, but your MSTs and pre-orders were pretty low, which detracted from your overall score”.

So which is more important to companies? Happy customers, or employees who can excel at arbitrary forms of performance measurement? Customers aren’t stupid; they know when employees are trying to keep them on the hook to get them to buy more things. They know extended service plans are pure profit and aren’t worth the money. Employees get upset and give worse service because they know they’re not going to get a passing grade in service plans or MSTs or pre-orders, and customers are unhappy when they get bad service.

Companies need to take heed: in this economy, keeping customers happy is more important than anything else. There’s less money to spend, and you really don’t want the competition getting money that you could’ve gotten but lost out on because your employees were forced to sell something they know the customers don’t need.

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who cares if it’s late? do it anyway! December 19, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Sales Floor Stories.
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This is what salespeople look like when they tell me to do something at the last minute.

This is what salespeople look like when they tell me to do something at the last minute.

When you work with salespeople, you become accustomed to things showing up late — if you’re lucky, the day before they need to be done, and if you’re not, the day of or after — and needing to not only be done right now but also needing to be the most important thing on your list, ahead of… well… anything.

At CorporateSpeak Headquarters, I work with salespeople. Things show up late all the time. We try to force a 5-7 day turnaround, but the sales managers don’t enforce it and the salespeople don’t give a damn. (It’s been a very trying few days. Pardon the negativity. Or don’t.) The orders I get often show the amount of money behind what I’m doing.

Some things I’ve noted:

  • The biggest, most complicated, most time-consuming projects have the smallest amount of money attached to them.
  • The bigger the client, the less we charge them, and the more teeny-tiny cogs there are in the process of finishing the work.
  • The small clients never complain, or if they do, they’re really understanding when something isn’t done that very instant.
  • The more work you put into something, the less the client likes it.
  • The biggest clients belong to the least-responsible salespeople, and that means you get their material at the last minute no matter what. And no matter what you do, you’re still going to get what you need five minutes before COB on the day it’s due.

I was recently tasked to put together a contest for a client. I’m not necessarily upset with the client, because once I finish this, I guarantee they’ll never look at it; they’ll just ship it to an agency. But the salesperson decided to deliver everything on Thursday at the end of the day. That left me one day — Friday — to complete a project I’ve done before, but takes three hours or so to do (there’s no way to replicate old ones because of the way it has to be done).

Yep. It was due Monday.

I got it done. But that’s no excuse. Of course, in a corporate world like ours where there’s no accountability despite the dozens of hours each work week that go into writing accountability reports, nothing will change. I fully expect another production order like this to cross my desk next Thursday at 5:55pm.

if you can do this, that would be great December 18, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Inexplicable Memos From Above, Sales Floor Stories.
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Just to follow up..one of our suggestions is that if you have any [company-wide] campaigns running the same time as this campaign, it would free up some space on your site if you go into [the server] and uncheck [the financial section]. If you can do this, that would be great! Please confirm!

Okay, so here’s the background: a company bought advertising on our network. Our national ad people took care of everything. But then they e-mailed all the branch offices who run the individual sites subnetworks and sent us that message. Basically, here’s what it means:

  1. The clients paid us a lot of money.
  2. After we cashed the check, they said “by the way, we want way more than what’s on the contract.
  3. Rather than give back the check, our national ad people said “sure, you can have whatever you want because you gave us a lot of money. We’ll find a way to make it work.”
  4. Our national ad people couldn’t find a way to make it work.
  5. They contacted the individual offices and subnetworks and said “hey, everyone, if you have any paid advertisers running across your entire subnetworks, go ahead and take them out of the financial group so we can deliver this thing we overpromised on.”

My group chose not to comply, pretty much because our local ad manager knows that we’re already overpromising with our local clients. But in order to comply with the request in that e-mail, a local ad manager or trafficker has to:

  1. Pull a report of every ad running across the entire network.
  2. Go into each one of those advertiser categories in the server and find the flights that involve the financial group.
  3. Remove the financial group from the flight.
  4. Save and uncache.
  5. Repeat until all entire-network flights are out of the financial group.
  6. When this big client finishes its run — and we don’t know what date that is because no one’s been told — go put back everything you just took out.

If you can do this, that would be great.