It’s All About Customer Service

In today’s day and age, it may not be such a bad idea to review the basics, for both employees and employers:

Way back in 2009, when I started my business, I met with a friend who arranged a meeting for me with a friend of his who was thinking about hiring staff. According to my friend, who was a baseball lover, I “hit it out of the ballpark” when it came to answering questions, but I blew it because I did not know the answer to the question, “What are the three things people notice about you?”

The answer was, at least in the case of men, your shoes (which must be shined), your pen (which must be impressive), and your watch (which must be professional). My shoes were shined and my pen, while not expensive, was (and is) impressive. The problem was my watch. In those days I wore a Casio watch with a calculator. Not a very professional look. So I purchased a nice looking Timex and, for the first time ever, people actually complimented me on my watch!

Years later, a gentleman called me about my professional writing services. As we discussed his needs it became clear that he probably would be better off hiring a marketer. I told him, “It sounds like you are trying to buy individual puzzle pieces and not the complete puzzle.” Little did I know that his one hobby was putting together thousand-piece puzzles! Needless to say, it was a productive conversation.

He had met with marketers who were more than happy to charge him thousands of dollars for their boilerplate solutions. They talked to him about logos, and websites, and everything else they could design. The one thing they could not do was to answer his question, Why, when people come to his store, do they leave without making a purchase?

I told him my guess was that he probably had either a staffing problem – his employees did not know how to sell – or a technology problem – closing a sale was too complicated. So I told him I would be happy to do a little friendly corporate espionage but I needed a Rolex. When he asked me why, I told him that I wanted his staff, and the staff of his competitors, to think I was wealthy.

When we were chatting prior to getting down to business, he had mentioned that his wife had a jewelry shop so I was confident he could get me the Rolex. We met at her store, she gave me the watch (I insisted that she not tell me how much it was worth!), I signed away my life, promised her that if I lost the watch, damaged it, or it was stolen, I would make her a widow! (I don’t know why I said it, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.) I then handed her my Timex (Who needs two watches?!) and her husband and I left, he headed for his store and I headed for him competitor a half a block away.

At his competitor’s, I was immediately greeted by a saleswoman. She welcomed me to the store, asked me what I was interested in and then, when I told her I wanted to look around, she invited me to do so and to call me if I needed any assistance. I spent a good 20 minutes in the store, touched a few things, inspected a few things, and then proceeded to leave. At the door the woman stopped me, thanked me for coming in, and gave me her card in case I had any questions. I thanked her and left. At no time was the Rolex visible.

Then I went to my friend’s store. No one met me at the door. I was ignored. Then, using my left arm, I reached for something and the Rolex appeared. As if by magic, so did his staff. They asked me what I wanted. I told them “I just want to look around.” They hovered over me the entire time I was there. They pointed out the most expensive things in the shop. Finally, I thanked them and left. They did not thank me and did not give me a card.

I went back to the owner’s wife’s store, returned the Rolex, got my Timex back, and, once my heart started beating at a near normal rate, I foolishly asked her how much the Rolex was worth. Let’s just say it’s a good think I did not know when she gave it to me because it was far more expensive than I thought!

I asked to use the phone, called her husband and told him it was time for him to pay up. (My fee for the initial information gathering was a pastrami on rye, coleslaw and a diet Coke.) You know what I reported. He had a high-end store (thus the need for the Rolex) but low-end salespeople. What surprised him was that I blamed him. I told him that it was a matter of training. That he should not hire me to get new staff for him, but he should find someone, with industry experience, who could retrain his staff. He belonged to a trade organization and could easily be introduced to the right person. Which is precisely what happened and his sales problems vanished.

Sometimes the employees are the problem. Sometimes it’s you, the boss. And sometimes you may need someone willing to tell you that.