Rubber Gloves (Issue 876)

In which we are reminded to fully educate clients' team members when their bosses buy our products.

There’s an “open 24 hours” grocery store near my home.  At 9:00 Friday evening, after a vigorous romp through the produce department, I stopped at the deli counter to countenance some cold cuts.

“What’ll you have?”, called out the counterman.

“A half pound of roast turkey, please,” I called back.

“OK,” he confirmed, pausing for a moment to check the cell phone in his lab coat pocket.  I noticed that he was wearing rubber gloves on his hands. Actually, he pulled out the phone and put it away several times as he picked up the turkey breast, put it in the slicer, and, then, sliced the turkey, catching the slices in the same hand (and the same glove) that he’d been wearing to handle his cell phone. He weighed the sliced turkey, stuffed it into a zip lock bag, and handed the bag to me.

I took the bag, thanked him, and stepped away from the counter. From some distant memory, I recalled (University of Arizona research, as it turns out) that cell phones carry 10x more germs than most toilet seats. Looking at the recently sliced turkey, I thought, “I don’t want this, I can’t eat this.”

I found the store manager. I told her the story. Her immediate response, “Yuck!”, was followed by “I’ll have a conversation with the deli department.  Would you like a replacement for this turkey?”

I gently declined, gave her the basket of groceries I’d collected, and left the store without any groceries at all.  Yuck!

As I walked home, I wondered, “Why did that happen?”   IMHO, the deli counter man did not understand WHY he was wearing gloves.   HE thought he was wearing the gloves to follow the rules… and he was doing a good job following the rules…. to ensure that none of his skin cooties transferred to my deli meat.  Mission accomplished, as far as he was concerned.

But, wait, there’s a BIGGER REASON why he should be wearing gloves: To ensure that his HANDS ARE CLEAN when he handles food – clean regarding his cooties and clean regarding ALL cooties, including those on his “10x more germs than a toilet seat” cell phone, for example.

IMHO, he did not fully understand WHY he should be wearing gloves.

When we sell our products and services, particularly those that require changes in our clients’ operating procedures or routines,  fully  “explaining ‘why’ to the people” is a critical step toward ensuring clients gain the benefits we’ve promised. While our clients can say “yes” to our proposals, their team members are the people who need to change their routines and use the new products or services.  Better that they fully understand the big picture, ALL the reasons why, rather than dutifully complying, following new operating procedures to the letter, and undermining the value of the new approach and our credibility.

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