While these two events might seem isolated, attributed to
some immature staff, customer experience expert, Marc Gordon,
sees it another way.
“To me, both these situations are the result of a disconnect
between corporate culture and training,” said Gordon.
“Lululemon is a company built on fitness – and the image of fitness.
Sometimes the image that a company wants to create can
manifest itself in negative ways with regards to the communication
skills of staff.”
At a quick glance, it may seem like HR is removed from
customer relations and not directly responsible for customer
experiences, as it’s better known for its hand in the internal
workings and relations of a company. However, HR’s direct responsibilities
include being the keeper of corporate culture and
ensuring that employees are properly trained for their duties.
When your front-line workers are interacting with customers
in a way that contradicts your brand or they are poorly trained,
your public image is damaged, and so are relationships with your
customers. It’s critical that HR support frontline workers to
make sure that your customers have a positive experience with
Gordon has worked with companies from multiple industries,
helping them to create positive customer experiences. HR
Professional sat down with him to find out his thoughts on how
these stories came to be and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t
Based on the way the staff in these situations communicated
with the customer, would you say this is a company culture issue,
or an employee training issue?
Marc Gordon: I would say that it’s a combination of both. I have
always believed that employee training and company culture have
to be in sync. One will be ineffective without the other. Think
about a store owner that trains his staff to be polite, professional
and customer focused, yet creates service policies that go against
the very things he instils. This will render the staff powerless to
deliver the level of service that they have been trained to provide.
So would it be fair to say that culture is the foundation of effective
MG: To a degree, yes. When you stay in a nice hotel, the staff
greet you. Everyone from the general manager to the cleaning
crew will show you the same smile and warm approachability.
This is built on a culture that empowers each employee to
embrace the role of company ambassador. From there, they are
trained how to put this belief into practice.
How can companies effectively bring together culture and
MG: Company culture is a belief, and training is a process that
supports that belief. For many companies with multiple locations
and a wide hierarchy of management, culture can be impacted
on a micro level. For retailers, the CEO may have a customerfirst
philosophy, and pushes it downward through management.
He may even implement polices to support this. However, at the
store level, overworked managers with budget constraints and
high employee turnover may be more focused on keeping their
jobs. All the feel-good messages from above mean nothing when
they don’t feel they are given the resources they need. At that
point, a new culture takes over at the store level – one of scarcity,
fear or frustration. Training then becomes meaningless.
Based on this, what was the source of the problem
MG: In the case of Lululemon, I have to wonder what the culture
of each store is. In the first story, the staff were trying to
be helpful, but seemed to lack training. In the second story,
the staff were unprofessional, which may have either supported
or ran counter to the store’s culture. That could also mean a
lack of training.
22 ❚ AUGUST 2017 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL