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Monday, June 01, 2009
Volume 15 | # 337
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People who concentrate on giving good service always get more personal satisfaction as well as better business. » Patricia Fripp

If The Shoe Fits

As I collected my items in the airport security line last Tuesday, I realized that I had worn two mismatched shoes. (Hey, they looked alike to tired eyes at 5:30 AM.) I thought about “winging it” and seeing if anyone noticed. But when I called my wife after my plane landed to give her a laugh, she made me promise to buy shoes at the Atlanta airport.

So I did a Google-search and found there was a store on Concourse B. I had actually worn this particular brand of shoe for years until I bought a pair that hurt my feet. A salesman had convinced me that those shoes would “break-in.” They never did. And I had not purchased their shoes since then.

But what seemed destined to be an aggravating experience turned into a positive one. And it had nothing to do with price. (Buying shoes in an airport isn’t exactly a budget-wise strategy.)

The experience turned positive when Mary came over to offer help. She asked, “Are you looking for anything in particular today?” I pointed down and said, “Well, I’m thinking that two shoes that match would be a good start.”

She laughed and told me not to feel bad. She assured me that no less than twice each week, men get off of morning flights and walk into her store with mismatched shoes.

Mary looked at my shoes and said, “Well, you like that style, but I doubt you want a third pair that looks just like them.” (That was a good point.) I told her, “Honestly, I really don’t care. What’s the best deal you have on black shoes?”

Her follow-up was great. She said, “We definitely want to get you a good price, but let’s make sure you buy shoes you actually like. You’re not buying disposable shoes. You’ll want to wear them for years.”

She continued, “And if we don’t have something that feels right for you, I can give you the name of some other stores around the airport.” That comment displayed a confidence that gave her instant credibility. In a situation in which she could make a quick and easy sale to a guy she wouldn’t likely see again, she treated me like a long-time customer whom she wanted to make happy.

And while I may not see Mary again, I walked out (wearing new shoes) thinking that I’ll likely begin buying that brand again.

People will tend to behave over time in the manner in which we treat them. Treat them like loyal, long-term customers, and they are likely to become – or remain – just that.

Some Timely Training

I had an experience with a jewelry store employee last week that had me hoping that we bankers do a better job of preparing frontline folks to help customers. Last year, I finally bought a model of watch that I’d long admired. And I’m happy with it. However, one of the things they neglect to tell you is that there is apparently an inverse correlation between the price of a watch and how accurate it is.

Actually, my sons’ $15 digital watches keep more precise time. But after awhile you adjust your expectations (as well as adjust your watch once a week). To keep the warranty valid, I’m required to bring it in annually to the place I purchased it from for an inspection. While there, I figured I’d ask a few questions that I’ve wondered about during the year.

The young man who greeted me at the counter was well-dressed and upbeat. But besides having an array of complimentary adjectives to describe their watches, he seemed to have no actual useful knowledge about any of them even though he wore one similar to mine.

I told him how many seconds my watch ran fast each day and wanted to explore what it would take to possibly have it adjusted. He chuckled and said, “Wow! You must be a details guy. My watch could be 5 minutes fast per day, and I wouldn’t know it. Actually, I think the specs for these watches are plus/minus 5 minutes a day.” Sadly, he was serious.

I suggested that if a watch is off by 5 minutes each day, it isn’t so much a watch as a bracelet that makes ticking noises. I shared with him things that I had picked up in just a few minutes from the watchmaker’s website. (Like the accuracy specs are actually plus/minus a few seconds each day.) All of this was news to him. I decided to withhold further questions and likely future interactions with that guy.

With minimal internet research, more and more customers walk in pretty well-versed on our products as well as those of our competitors. When they take the time to ask face-to-face questions, they don’t expect to be the ones doing the educating.

If our frontline folks aren’t as up-to-speed as they are, customers can be forgiven if they begin to question the competence of the entire organization.

Are your team members keeping up by at least regularly “researching” your and your competitors’ websites? It’s one of the easiest and most relevant “training refreshers” available. Try to make time for it.

Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training. » Anna Freud

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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