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Great businesses anticipate!

 8 February 2021     Donald Cooper 

Many companies measure their service excellence by how well and how quickly they respond to their customers. How we respond matters. But the real customer service magic comes when we anticipate our customers’ needs and concerns and proactively do what needs to be done ahead of time. Great businesses anticipate. They proactively think and feel like a customer and get it right at every touch point.

One day, early on in the life of our (eventually) award-winning Alive & Well fashion store, I was the only employee on duty and there was only one customer in the store. She was in a change room and her two-year-old son was running around like a madman. Suddenly, I smelled a full diaper – and so did his mother. She came running out of the change room, looked at the poop running down her son’s leg, threw up her hands and said, “I don’t have any diapers with me; I’ll have to take him home.”

“Take him home.” I observed. “You can’t even pick him up.”

“But what will I do?” she asked.

“Have you ever worked in a retail store?” I enquired. “Yes, years ago,” was the reply.

“Well, you’re working in one again,” I informed her. “You’re in charge – I’ll be right back with diapers.”

I jumped in my car, drove down to the corner drug store, bought three sizes of diapers, plus baby wipes and cream and was back in the store in ten minutes. While I was gone, three customers came in and my new stand-in sales lady was doing a fine job. She changed her son’s diaper, continued shopping and over the next few weeks must have told 100 women about the crazy store owner who left her in charge and ran out to buy diapers.

We were immediately mobbed by young mothers who came in to shop and to ask if we really had free diapers. From that day on we had change tables, diapers, baby wipes and cream in our customer washrooms. Why? Because, if it happened once, it will happen again and we were ready. Good businesses respond. Great businesses anticipate. We sold ladies clothing, but we became ‘famous’ for simple acts of kindness like free diapers, free beverages, electric reclining massage chairs for husbands and boyfriends, a Pirate Ship Play Area for kids and the magic sign that said, “Please take as many items in the change room as you wish!”

The ‘small stuff’ does make all the difference. Have you mastered the art of doing a lot of simple things really, really well? How can you take small, everyday customer interactions and turn them into extraordinary acts that delight customers and drive your competitors nuts? 

Here’s something else to think about:

Are reusable shopping bags a good idea? I mentioned in a recent column that some studies show it takes 100 uses of one of those reusable shopping bags to offset the amount of energy it takes to manufacture them – and they’re not recyclable. Apparently, my information was incorrect.

An avid reader who’s an expert in the reusable bag industry, quickly corrected me by stating that while some reusable bags are not recyclable, many are – some are even biodegradable. He mentioned that if governments got their act together, all reusable bags could be recycled.

Canada’s slimiest business leader has been fired! Vancouver-based Rod Baker, president and chief executive officer of Great Canadian Gaming Company, chartered a plane to fly with his wife to a remote First Nations village in the Yukon where they posed as local motel workers in order to illegally ‘jump the queue’ for a COVID-19 vaccination. When the news broke, he was immediately fired by his company’s board of directors.

That’s it for this week. Stay safe. Live brilliantly!

Stearns & Foster
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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