Changing Roles in a Changing Industry

by WOHe

I stopped at a home center last week on my way back from work.
All I needed was a $6 piece of metal to repair my kitchen faucet
something I anticipated would take minutes. Instead, I spent more
than an hour in the store looking for assistance while trying to
avoid being run over by the little beeping carts.

The first customer service person I approached was less than
helpful. The second, who was standing directly in the aisle with
all the faucet pieces, responded to my request for assistance with
a grouchy: “Don’t ask me. I can only talk about bath vanities.”

Wow, I thought to myself, he can only talk about bath vanities,
huh? I bet he must be great fun at parties!

Okay, so perhaps I was feeling a bit cranky, and perhaps when I
thought it to myself, I actually said it just a tiny bit out loud.
Fortunately, the next salesperson who overheard my frustrated
mutterings was amused rather than insulted, and promptly offered to
help. When I told him what I needed, he responded, “Well, it’s not
actually in my job description, but I probably could find that for

He quickly found what I needed, and in short order, I was on my
way, a satisfied customer (or as satisfied as you can be when
you’ve wasted an hour buying something that’s not shoes, ice cream
or jewelry).

But later, I wondered: Whose job description is it, exactly, to
find the small metal faucet thingie? Is it anyone’s job? After all,
little $6 pieces of metal aren’t terribly important until they’re
broken, of course, and then every time you turn on the water, you
look like you’ve walked through a sprinkler.

The whole experience made me think about how many times I’ve
been tasked with things that I think of as “not in my job
description.” Sometimes it’s the pesky little details: phone calls
about areas outside of my expertise, or paper work that someone
else was supposed to handle but didn’t. Things that seem
unimportant when you’re asked to interrupt your busy schedule to
handle them yet can cause huge problems when they’re neglected.

We all do these things, yet on some level, we view them as “not
our job.”

Of course, we’ve all heard the mantra, “when it comes to
servicing customers, there’s no such thing as ‘not my job.’ ” And,
if we truly intend to be full-service firms not just talk the talk,
but walk the walk we know we need to embrace these.

But increasingly, I’ve come to believe that if we want to truly
succeed in this industry, it’s not enough to just expand what we
are willing to do.

In an industry that’s constantly evolving, sometimes the only
way to stay truly relevant to the market is to throw out the old
job description entirely. And with it, rethink all of the
preconceived notions we have about what we think we do, why we
think we do it, and for whom we think we’re doing it. Because it’s
not just that our jobs are changing; rather, the world is changing.
Our customers are changing, and our customers’ needs; the
marketplace is changing; even the way business is done is
constantly changing. And that means we need to change more than
just some internal job description.

It’s something kitchen and bath distributors and “whotailers”
have been finding out in recent years, as a rapidly changing market
has applied competitive pressures that have forced them to redefine
their very role in the industry. After all, does it matter what
your job description used to be, or what you think it’s supposed to
be, if the industry has evolved to the point where you’re
addressing totally different needs?

Likewise, as our society increasingly refocuses on the core
values of hearth and home, kitchen and bath dealers may find they
need to rethink who and what their customers want them to be. For
instance, most kitchen and bath designers don’t view community
service as part of their job descriptions. Yet, for the Corvallis,
OR-based Corvallis Custom Kitchens & Baths which won top honors
in Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Industry Leadership Awards for
Overall Excellence in Operating a Kitchen and Bath Dealership the
firm’s decision to expand its “job description” to include
education and a commitment to the community has actually changed
how the firm does business, and how its customers view the firm.
The result is a company that’s not only more successful, but also
one that has moved to the next level as a true leader.

Job descriptions don’t even stay the same for products. In this
month’s “Designer’s Notebook”, Ellen Cheever talks about how the
mantel hood of old has taken on a new role in the kitchen. That
means designers need to “relearn” how to use these, both in terms
of functional capabilities and design possibilities.

Have you thought about what your role in this industry is
lately, and whether you need to make changes in order to be more
relevant? If not, perhaps it’s time. Or you might just get run over
by that beeping cart in aisle six.

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