The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Saturday, May 15, 2010
Volume 15 | # 360
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Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hands that they need are at the end of their own arms. » Sidney J Phillips

Fishing for Great Service

A few Christmases ago, one of my older son’s requests for Santa was an aquarium and goldfish. His interest in the aquarium lasted about as long as the Christmas ham in the fridge.

So, as is often the case, Mom and Dad became the caretakers of the new pets. The funny thing (well, funny in a not-actually-funny kind of way) is that we’ve spent a few hundred dollars over the past couple of years on various additives, conditioners, neutralizers, siphons, etc. for that tank.

I often kid with my wife that it would be cheaper just to dump the tank out and buy new goldfish every month. She’s actually become quite the pH/Alkaline/Acidity guru. I know we spend more on test strips and chemicals each month than a new tank of fish would cost. (But let’s not go there again.)

While she has done online research, she has learned most of what she knows from the folks at the local PetSmart. There was a time when I tried to avoid shopping there, mainly because everything costs more. Well, that and I don’t particularly like hanging around customers who honestly think their dogs are children. (But let’s not go there, either.)

The same $3.00 goldfish at the local Colloso-mart will cost $7.00 at PetSmart. Food, chemicals, testing strips… everything costs about 50% more. And yet, my value-shopper-on-steroids wife now shops PetSmart almost exclusively.

For one, you can never find someone to actually help you with fish at the Colloso-mart. At PetSmart, they’re there to help and actually discuss what you’re buying. And they ask relevant questions to make sure your tank at home is properly prepared to receive new fish.

What had me grinning recently was the follow-up email my wife received, congratulating her on her new pet goldfish. The email provided links to answers of frequently asked questions, as well as to other fish and equipment-related articles. They also included a $5 coupon for her next purchase.

Hey, what a concept! Know your products, provide great service, follow-up with customers, and offer an incentive to do more business in the future.

My wife is still the “value shopper” she always was. In this case, competent service and follow-ups are a greater value to her, even at a higher price.

Make sure that your service is the best value a customer gets today, regardless of the price.

They Can't Hear Me Now

If I have a business model that has customers rarely visiting one of my stores or branches, I’d want to make sure that when they do visit, it’s a positive experience. I’m just saying.

On a drive home one recent evening, my wife wanted to “pop in” to a Verizon store to buy a new charger for her phone. An employee a few feet away called out, “Please sign in on the computer.”

There was a kiosk where we had to enter our name in order to be queued up. My wife said, “I don’t need assistance. I just want to buy a charger.” No dice. You have to sign in.

After finding the overpriced $35 charger unique to her phone within 30 seconds, our whole family stood 10 feet from the counter and waited. Two employees were simply standing there while “their” customers looked at various phones. One guy at the counter was staring at nothing in particular, waiting to hear from a technician in the back.

Five minutes later, they called a name. No one responded. The guy literally walked around the store, calling out the name. When he got no response, I told my wife, “Just pretend to be the next person they call.” He called another name, and someone responded. Five more minutes went by.

At least one other customer simply wanted to purchase an (overpriced) accessory off of the rack. He, too, stood there, arms crossed. I finally walked up to an employee and asked, “Is there any way we can just pay for this and leave?” He said, “Uh, not until we call you name.”

My wife joked that we could just leave a couple of twenties on the counter and run. Instead, we put the charger back on the wall and left.

As we walked out, I told my wife, “If you want to eat the rest of the Verizon contract and just get an iPhone tomorrow, I’m all for it.” I’m guessing that’s not the reaction Verizon hopes their store experiences evoke.

And I’d also bet that “corporate” thinks their system is efficient. It’s also ridiculous. Employees apparently aren’t encouraged to use any common sense in “managing” their lobbies. Customers in a hurry, trying to hand them money, get to watch others shop.

And nobody who works there seems to have any kind of problem with it.

Folks who aren’t encouraged and empowered to use common sense have a tendency to, well… stop using any common sense. Be sure that your team is always ready and willing to use theirs.

There's nothing like biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing anyway. » Mark Burnett

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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