A few weeks ago, we bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee for my wife. It’s an excellent vehicle, but I noticed something interesting during the sales process.
At one point they made a small financial miscalculation, but the finance manager ate the difference to make sure they stood by their word, which was appreciated. That was just good customer service. The weird part was the tires.
When we took it on a test drive, there were various lights on the dashboard warning about low tire pressure. “No problem”, the salesman said, “we’ll take care of that”.
So we got back to the dealership, and while we were doing the paperwork they took the car to the back, cleaned it up, and then brought it back to the front so it was ready for us. When we left, all the “low tire pressure” warnings were still on.
Now, this isn’t a big deal — we stopped by a gas station and filled them up, and all is good, but it made me think about how this happened.
When we initially got back after our test drive, one of their employees took the car to the back. Then, a little while later, one of their employees moved the car back to the front. It’s possible they didn’t notice the error messages, but Jeep makes those warnings very red and obnoxious, so that’s not the case. I think the problem is that it “wasn’t their job”.
I imagine the guy bringing it back up to the front saw the warning lights and thought “Steve was supposed to fix that. Oh well, it’s on him, not me.“
Employees taking ownership of “other” problems is key to a successful business. It’s similar to skipping things that they client didn’t ask for, but you know that they need.
Two of Seth Godin’s old posts touch on this a bit.
Back in 2010 he had a very short post about authority vs responsibility:
Many people struggle at work because they want more authority.
It turns out you can get a lot done if you just take more responsibility instead. It’s often offered, rarely taken.
And then in 2013 he talked about two ways organizations can promote responsibility:
There are only two choices available to any large organization:
1. Hire people who make no original decisions but be damn sure that if they are going to run by the book, the book better be perfect. And build in reviews to make sure that everyone is indeed playing by the book, with significant monitoring and consequences in place for when they don’t.
2. Hire people who care and give them the freedom and responsibility to act. Hold people responsible for the decisions they make, and trust their judgment.
The tires weren’t a big problem, but the lack of employees willing to step up and take action for something that needed to be done (even if it wasn’t on their list of responsibilities) should be a major concern for any company.