Empowerment - Shaping
From time to time we write stories -
almost always favorable - about a particular retail organization that we do a lot of
business with and one which we often use as an example in The Retail Management Workshop.
All of us, here at DMSRetail (a group of
retail management consultants and retail training instructors) frequent this
particular chain because we like them.
Honestly, when this group can agree that we all like a particular retailer it
means that retailer is pretty darned good.
The reasons why
we like them are as follows:
They are always well stocked
They offer a good range of products
Staff are competent and friendly
Good quality merchandise is well priced
The store is clean and well maintained
The store is well laid out
The signage is clear
The check out process is very efficient
They deliver the service you expect; the
service they promise
I can find more reasons, but I think you
get the picture.
Just so you know, this chain requires
that all of their customers become members – and all of their customers pay an
annual membership fee. All purchases are easily tracked, on their systems, by
membership number. Any employee with the appropriate level of authority may
punch in the membership number and view all purchases made by that member. And
there are different membership levels. The story I am about to tell you involves
a member who pays annual fees at the highest membership level.
This story is about an incident that
knocked them off the pedestal, so to speak. I am very disappointed about that
but, nevertheless, I have to tell you about this recent incident to serve as a
reminder for you to check and make sure the people in your organization are not
letting you down.
Also, in all of our Success Guides we
talk about the fact that every interaction between the retailer and the customer
is shaping the customers’ perception of the business, so it only makes sense for
us to point this out. While this chain still has much weight on the positive
side, this particular incident revealed something very interesting about their
culture – something we do not like.
On with the story, one of our
consultants purchases many, many pieces of electronic equipment, computers,
printers and monitors, etc. from this retailer. Any authorized person at the
store could easily find out that information, as mentioned above. Anyway, one
day, when the consultant noticed that there had been a significant price
reduction on something purchased very recently, he approached the Customer
Service desk to inquire about a price adjustment.
The retailer does have a very favorable,
customer friendly price adjustment and refund policy.
This is another one of the reasons we
rank them so highly. The price adjustment policy is only valid as long as there
is stock of the item on the sales floor and, in this particular case there was
not a lot of stock left on the sales floor.
One other detail - the consultant did
not have the receipt with him at the time. Uh, oh. That, right there, means he
is in for a fight. So, here’s what happened….
The associate advised him that she could
not give him the adjustment because the system takes 24 hours to update and if
he had gone to other locations asking for the same price adjustment then he may
just get that money back too many times. No, no, no - the original receipt
absolutely must be presented.
The policy is absolutely clear and there
is absolutely no way to make an exception. No way, nothing, absolutely!
Well, I guess one could say that’s fair
enough. Retailers do need to protect themselves against abuses and producing the
receipt is really not such a big deal for the customer. It’s a pretty reasonable
expectation that a customer should produce a receipt. Not that we agree it is
always absolutely necessary, with no room for exceptions, but we do find it
But let’s look at what went wrong and
how it could have gone so much better. In fact, it could have gone so much
better that this story may have been written in praise.
Big Mistake Number One:
The associate should not have quoted the policy in order to explain the
situation. No customer ever wants to hear that they cannot have what they want
because a nameless, faceless policy says so. Associates who hide behind the
dreaded policy quote clearly do not have the resources or training to use some
other method. Time and time again, in our Success Guides and Training Sessions, we stress that
associates should not quote company policy. It doesn’t help and usually makes a
bad situation worse.
Big Mistake Number Two:
The associate might as well have been saying “You are probably lying. We
cannot possibly trust you and you are probably one of those people who
will try to get more money from us than you deserve.”
There was just no need for any of this.
Instead of repeating no, no, no and listing all the reasons why nothing could be
done, the associate should have immediately looked at the purchase history and
seen that this customer spends over $1,000.00 monthly in that particular store.
Armed with the knowledge that this customer was not an average customer and, in
fact, represented huge lifetime value to the organization (something we always
speak about in our Success Guides and Training Sessions), the associate could have proceeded to do
something ‘special’ or just a little ‘different’. It would have taken very
little ingenuity to come up with a plan for this customer while still working
(unbeknownst to the customer) within the rules or policy.
Here is just one very straight forward
“Mr. So and So, I see that you are a
very good customer of ours and it is certainly not my intention to inconvenience
you. I’ll make a note and take care of this for you myself. I can go ahead and
process your price adjustment for you
in just 24 hours from now, when our system has been updated.
You can either pick up your store credit
the next time you are in the store or I can mail it to you. Which would you
prefer, Mr. So and So?”
What a perceived difference in outcomes.
In this example, there was absolutely no risk to the store. If, in fact, Mr. So
and So had been on a mission to go to several other stores to get a price
adjustment that would have shown up on their system in 24 hours and then the
story would have had a different ending anyway.
Here is what we learned from this short
interaction with the associate:
1) The store/chain does not have a
culture of empowerment and/or
2) This associate was not properly
it’s not good. Empower your people and teach them what to do with it.
DMSRetail’s Super Retail Success Bundle
is made up of 9 excellent Success Guides and Tools that address all of these
issues, and more. You can get your copy here:
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