Customer satisfaction and loyalty don’t require flawless delivery as much as they require a level of people savvy after there’s been a problem.
I needed to print a picture late one night last week when I was out of town on business. On line, I found a Walmart thirty minutes away, so I called to inquire if they had a computer terminal and a color photo printer set up 24-hours a day. An associate named Ashley assured me that the photo department had everything that I needed.
Which turned out to be incorrect.
The journey to the store proved challenging. My GPS selected “roads” made of hard packed earth traveled by wild animals. The drive went on endlessly. I couldn’t go above 10 mph for fear of hitting a herd of white tail deer. And the roads curved crazily, carving little slices through and around the mountains and valleys.
Arriving at the store, I had one thought in mind: GETINGETOUTGETHOME.
I went directly to the photo department, slipped my thumb drive into a glowing print terminal and touched the screen per the directions. A message popped up saying something like:
THE PHOTO DEPARTMENT is currently closed. Please come back tomorrow.
Angry little thoughts exploded inside my head. Ashley told me that I could print my picture at any time. All I needed was a thumb drive, their computer, and their printer. Where was Ashley? I inquired of an associate named Chris. Ashley had left for the day.
I asked to speak to a manager. In my mind, the solution to this problem was simple: PRINT MY PICTURE.
“I drove 40 minutes through the mountains to GIVE YOU MONEY. Won’t you please find a way for me to give you my money?”
By the time the manager arrived, a little smoke curled above my head. But in hindsight, I don’t know that the woman I spoke with was an actual manager or not. I mean, she didn’t say that she was the manager. And she didn’t wear a name tag saying MANAGER.
But she took the smoke off my head and got my problem resolved.
What did she do?
- She listened to me. She asked me very specific questions about who I talked to on the phone, how far I had come, and what I was trying to accomplish. She didn’t interrupt except to encourage me to continue by nodding her head in understanding. She ended by restating what I hoped to accomplish: an 8×10 photo print.
- She invested effort. While leading me to the photo department, she told me that she had not worked on the machines for some time. She explained she would look for a way to change the store hours on the system which would re-establish the connection from the terminal to the printer. She spent 20 minutes trying to find a way to make it work.
- She apologized and accepted responsibility. Even while trying to resolve my issue, she accepted responsibility for the situation: “I’m really sorry about this. If I were you, I’d be very frustrated. I hope I can make this machine work so you can get your print.”
- She found another option. Unbeknownst to me, while she worked to find the solution to the problem, she asked associate Chris to call around other stores to find an open one that might have a machine that could print the picture for me. Before I left Walmart, the woman gave me specific directions to a CVS drug store two miles down the road that was open and had a working photo printing machine.
This Walmart employee who stepped in turned around the situation. She changed my very negative opinion of the store not because she owned the miracle solution, but because of how she handled the problem. She demonstrated:
- world-class listening skills
- personal involvement in my problem
- personal accountability for a mistake that wasn’t hers
- a commitment to getting me what I needed—even when it meant sending me to the competition
Employees who deliver flawless service are valuable and rare. But employees who know how to respond to the unforeseen bump in the road by opening their ears, engaging their hands, offering some heart, and giving out-of-the-box solutions are irreplaceable…because they are leaders.
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Scott, I checked out your website, videos and blog after you gave me your card. You’re very (and multi-) talented. I was wondering how you got that pic printed and framed on such short notice, now know you went to considerable trouble. You certainly “walk your talk.” A+. I have passed your info along for consideration as a motivational speaker for my company. We’re going through some major (demoralizing but ultimately good) changes and we could use some talk from you! I love your stories and your message. Keep being amazing and inspiring.
Thank you so much, Catherine! You and Gavin are the topic of an upcoming blog of mine because of the incredible, awesome experience you provided Jocelyn and me this last weekend. Our desire to do something out of the ordinary for you two started with the extraordinary way you guys took care of us! Stay tuned!
Isn’t it wonderful how the universe works..yesterday morning I scribbled down on my post-it. What is Loyalty? I searched the library yesterday evening for some tools and insight, couldn’t get any on the specific nature of ‘Relationship Loyalty’, but I think that some of the same needs apply, no matter what the situation. I admire you so much and you have great insight and advice. Blesses, Wellness & Light.
You’re right Nada: relationships loyalty is universal, regardless if the nature of the relationship is business or personal. My mother used to say, “It’s easy to be an angel when no one ruffles your wings!” Likewise, many people think they have a loyal relationship when in fact they have a relationship in which they are satisfied. LOYALTY endures hardships and challenges, and trying times actually strengthen the loyalty; SATISFACTION suffers when it meets hardships and challenges, and trying times kill satisfaction that ISN’T ROOTED IN LOYALTY!
I would recommend Scott for speaking. He helps you to learn something but adds some comedy to it. Well he is my step dad so of course I would recommend him but you should see him speak!