Head Injuries R’Us

I’m totally going Rick Segal on your asses tonight.  If you’re not reading his blog and you’re in any way, shape, or form involved in business, you should be.

So, we have a name for name for FedEx Kinkos, Head Injuries R’Us.   Honestly, I’m not a big Kinkos customer, since I don’t really deal much in paper, but this week while we were down in the Bay Area, we had need for paper versions of several documents, so naturally we ended up at Kinkos.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like I needed to invest so much effort to pay someone.  We had need for some quick and dirty business cards for me which required printing color on cardstock.  This seems like a simple request.  I could do it on my inkjet printer at home with little to no effort, so thusly Kinkos should be able to accomplish it in a fraction of the time.  Well, long story short, not this Kinkos.  They had one color printer down, and the other one was completely backed up.  They told us "Come back tomorrow."  Who knows how many sales they lost.

To me it seems like a simple queueing issue.  I needed 1 sheet of cardstock printed.  Whatever else was in the queue then probably consisted of much larger batches with customers who were not in the store at the time.  The revenue from my purchase would have been insignificant, but what they’ve done by not training their employees with how to deal with outage situations is to guarantee they will not receive my business when it comes time to do a larger printing.  They could have simply printed my page and delayed the other jobs by a minute and I would have been none the wiser and neither, most likely, would the other customers they were printing for that day.

Later in the day, we are at yet another Kinkos, to print up color copies of a document and purchase two binders to place those documents in.  We waited for over 10 minutes to pay $6 for the binders.  We contemplated laying the cash on the counter and walking out, but we didn’t have the change.

The thing to learn from this experience if you’re running a business, is that every interaction with a customer is valuable.  Kinkos is a business which markets to people whose time is valuable.  I understand outages and downtime, but your employees must be trained to deal with them.  I could have walked out of the store a happy customer had a manager or employee been thinking on their feet about what to do with a 50% capacity loss.  Telling a customer to come back tomorrow isn’t good business and it’s likely that I won’t come back again, period.  Secondly, if you run a retail/service business, make sure the retail side always has at least one register dedicated to it, rather than tieing up 100% of your capacity to answer service related questions.  A customer shouldn’t have to wait 10 minutes to pay for something, otherwise she’s likely to not pay at all.

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One Comment on “Head Injuries R’Us”

  1. craig says:

    I used to work at a Kinko’s, and the problem you speak of is endemic to that company. At least at the location that I worked at, the focus from the store and regional management was on the high volume, corporate account holders. Although they market themselves as kind of an in’n’out service provider for individuals, the truth is that tiny, “insignificant” projects are not what they’re after. The store’s profits are based around how many “clicks” they can run on all of the printing machines in a given time period (however often they compute their revenue numbers). So basically, the idea is to have the machines running high volume jobs at all times (and to be fair, the type of machines they use are designed to produce high-volume, low quality output). It’s next to impossible to stop a job of 10,000 prints to run a simple, quick-turnaround job, because they see that as a loss of revenue. Besides that, the management and sales team are the most insidious bunch of brown-nosers, what they will do to satisfy account holders at the expense of the walk-in customer is beyond belief.

    At my store, there was a large self-service area, which is where you would be not-so-kindly directed to if you had a project of, say, under 500 copies of anything (save for oversize posters or special orders). However, they disfavor the use of “self-serve” because that scares customers away – the area was staffed, so theoretically you could always get help. The staff was specifically trained NOT to do jobs for people, but to “encourage self reliance” by showing people how to use the machines. However, this area was of course chronically understaffed. Believe me, the production crew did NOT like having to go to the self-help area to clear a paper jam out of a copier for an elderly customer!

    So yes, terrible customer service + lack of staffing + suck-up management amounts to a pretty miserable experience to do business, and to work for, Kinko’s.


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