When Performance Review Meets the Customer Experience

by Jennifer Miller on October 6, 2009

in Business Management

I just returned from the grocery store, one that I frequent nearly every week.  This is what I overhead as my groceries were being rung up and bagged today:

Supervisor (to cashier): “When you’re done ringing her up, meet me upstairs for your evaluation.”

Cashier: “OK.” Supervisor walks away.

Cashier (to bagger): “Oh, man. . . I HATE evaluation time.  What if she was like, “You’re fired.  Can you IMAGINE?”

Bagger: “Yeah, I had my eval yesterday.  I’m here 20 minutes early every day and still, all I get is a ‘4’. I said, you should give me a ‘5’ on that one and she goes, ‘nobody gets a 5’. . .”

On and on it went, throughout the entire check out process.  The cashier was very efficient and courteous. So was the bagger, who recognizes and greets me every time she sees me. But all I could think was, “Wow, are they really discussing their performance reviews right here on the floor while they interact with a customer?”

Now, maybe I’m overly interested in that particular topic, given that I’ve been on all sides of the performance review equation: HR Generalist, Supervisor and Employee. Maybe, say, an engineer, would have given no thought whatsoever to the conversation unfolding in front of her.  But maybe not.

For those of you involved in HR administration or in any part of ensuring your company’s customer experience, take heed.  Your employees are bringing your performance review process right onto the dance floor. Talk about transparency.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Deirdre October 6, 2009 at 4:43 pm

So incredible. I just have to ask you, did you join the conversation? I would be compelled to ask questions. And Paul would leave me there. 🙂

It’s curious to me when I am treated invisibly to customer service associates. For example, why should you/we be overhearing this conversation? Maybe that’s why they are 4s. We all know that no feedback should be a surprise but yet, I have seen it a surprise to the recipient(s). Sounds like it would be a surprise to these people.

I know at Meijer, they are evaluated on volume, so I almost never experience chitchat conversation with customers or coworkers.

I personally think that this is a PRIME example of documentation because the lawyer told us to, not so we can develop, coach, counsel and promote our employees. The bare minimum, the checkbox and do it once a year, get it over. Can’t see HOW this is even remotely helpful.

Jennifer October 6, 2009 at 4:59 pm


At the end of the transaction, I did lean in and say someting like, “I don’t think she’ll fire you; it’s a performance review. I’m an HR consultant.” The cashier looked at me like, “How DARE you listen in on my conversation?” so I just let it go.

Wish I had come up with something snappier, but my frozen goods were melting 🙂

Kristina October 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I come across this type of situation frequently. I look at it from the perspective that they truly have no interest of awareness of what customers want to see and hear. I can understand that when the supervisor summons someone for their evaluation, it can make some people nervous. That being said, any feelings of trepidation should not be communicated within earshot or vision of the customer. Although you did say that they were coureous to you, your customer experience here was focused on them, not you. That’s the difference that makes the difference. And, like you said, it’s a performance review. Staff often forget that they literally are performing for their customers. Good points that you brought up in this post.

Michael VanDervort October 7, 2009 at 12:01 am

I work for a large retailer that is heavily performanced based. For many of our associtiates, this is their first exposure to performance appraisals.

I think the conversation actually betrays many of the faults with perf appraisal systems.

“Mo one gets 5’s” – Why not? What message does this send to associates?

“What if she says you’re fired” – Obviously, this is not what performance appraisals should be about, nor how they should be perceived, but the reality is they often are.


We need to fix these things.

Jane Perdue October 8, 2009 at 7:10 am

Oh my goodness — so many “rich with opportunity” topics in one encounter: culture, customer service, performance management, leadership!

The cashier’s response to your reassuring comment speaks volumes (to me) about her orientation to customer service. Customer contact employees must always be “ON.” (With a past employer did a “customer care experience initiative” and used Disney as a role model for this.)

Yikes! to the supervisor for making such a comment in front of a customer…shows no customer service or good employee relations competencies on her part.

And, performance management! That’s a system I would love to see scrapped and be replaced with a dialogue and process that yields worthwhile results.

Jennifer…that grocery stores needs you as more than just a grocery customer!

novice-hr October 9, 2009 at 10:15 am

ahh, i agree with Mike’s comment regarding the faults of their performance system. It’s absurd to not give out perfect mark “just because”. System like that makes no sense to me..

K. Riggs October 9, 2009 at 10:31 am

Performance appraisals….(sigh). One of those ideas that mean well an have enormous unintended consequences.

As a manager at a Fortune 100 company, my brother led a group that set all kinds of sales/profitability records and received “5s” on his annual review. The next year they did even better – and he was told that “we never give 5s two years in a row.”

A short time later, he left the company. Nice.

Jennifer October 10, 2009 at 8:32 am

Ah, the fundamental flaw in most performance appraisal systems….holding the feedback until the “official review.” If a culture of continuous feedback existed then everyone would know where they stand at any given moment, making that review meeting so much less stressful for the employee. However, easier said than done to create such an environment…

And it makes me cringe to hear no one gets a certain rating. Then why have that rating??? Simplify to ratings that are achievable!

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