You Never Know 0

All businesses have customers. Without someone purchasing the services or products that your company produces, there is no profit and no incentive to continue. Even in the non-profit sector, there are end users of the services provided by the organization and if you do not meet the needs of that group, they will leave you and find someone who will fulfill their needs.

Every day my managers, employees and I interact with our customers and work to give them the best possible experience. We give of our time willingly, proud of the products that we offer and proud of the company we work for. And because our company does a lot of business around the world and has a great reputation, we see a huge number of customers every day. So there was little time to think that what I did or said that Tuesday morning at 10:17AM would come back to me five months later.

It started out the same as any Tuesday. We opened the door a little early and made sure that everyone was ready to greet the customers. Then it was, “do you carry this?” and ” I saw this product in another of your locations, do you have it?, and “several months ago you had this product, I don’t remember the name, but it was really good, are you getting it again?” At 10:17AM I was making my way from the back of the store. As I passed the register area, I noticed a man standing near the entrance to the office. I approached him and asked if I could help.

He explained that he had purchased a product from one of our other locations and it was defective. He had returned it to that location only to find out they did not have any more. Really wanting the same item, he had asked if any other location had the same item and was told that my location stocked the product. So he packed a lunch and drove the 40 minutes from his home to see us. After researching what he had purchased, it turned out that we did not have any more of this item. Not wanting to disappoint this customer any further, our team found a slightly more expensive item that was in stock that would meet his needs. So we rang him up at the same price he had paid for the original item, loaded him up and away he went. The customer left happy and that’s the end of story. Or so I thought.

Five months later, a co-worker from another location, Debbie was riding the New Jersey Coast Line train into New York to see a matinee performance of a Broadway musical. Debbie was seated with five other employees talking about the show they were going to see, about their families and just generally making conversation as the train approached the tunnel into New York. Seated across the aisle was the customer I worked with 5 months ago. He was quietly listening to the conversation my co-worker and her employees were having. When someone in the group mentioned the name of our business, this customer’s ears perked up. He turned to Debbie and said “It sounds like you work for “my favorite store”".  She said, “yes”. He then asked “do you know Joel?” “Yes” was the reply, “we have worked in the same building in the past and I have known him for years”.  So he related to her his feelings about that day 5 months ago.

He told her that by the time I spoke with him he had been disappointed 3 times. He told Debbie that at the very moment I had approached him, he was actually preparing a very strongly worded complaint letter in his head and had every intention of never purchasing anything from our company again. But, by the time he left my location, we turned his thoughts around 180 degrees. He told my co-worker that he is now our biggest fan. We took a frustrating problem for him and turned it into a positive experience. By taking the time to hear him out, seeing what he needed and then meeting that need, we unknowingly won a loyal customer.

The most important lesson from this is that you never know. What my team and I did, we do all the time. I can’t remember thinking I’ve got to do something special or that I may run into him in the future, it was just taking care of the customer. When I  spoke to the customer on that Tuesday morning, he did not say anything about how frustrated he was or that he was thinking of boycotting our company. He was just a customer with a problem and we set about solving it. Having the positive ending come back to us 5 months later through a random meeting on a train going into “the city” was just proof that every encounter with your customers is the most important.

Most of the time you will never even be aware of the impact you have had on your customers. But every so often, the hand of fate gives you a glimpse. So do the right thing at every opportunity because… you never know!