How to Create Raving Fans Instead of Customer Monsters

By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Even if you’re not a fan of slasher movies, you probably have heard about the main character in the movie series “Halloween.” My extensive research (consisting of clicking Wikipedia and asking my ever-lovin’ bride) shows a count of ten sequels and two more in the works.

The story line centers around Michael Myers, who seems to be a perfectly likable chap, other than the fact that he likes to chop up people on Halloween night. If you are in a position of having to settle unresolvable customer issues topped with unreasonable demands, you may be able to relate to Mr. Myers’ worldview.

Or, if you change your issue resolution process, you might find that you are gaining raving fans instead of creating monsters.

I had an experience with a Myers of a different sort. Those of us living in the central part of the country are familiar with Meijer’s. Based in the state due north of Ohio, it’s kinda like a Walmart, if Walmart could take a step up the food chain. You can get groceries, clothing, TVs and greeting cards all in one stop. After making your selections you can choose from over twenty cashier stands, of which three are open. They also offer self-checkout.

Last month my ever-lovin’ and I stopped by a Meijer’s store to pick out a Valentine’s Day gift and card for a friend. The Meijer’s management thoughtfully provided a full display of items for the occasion, with a sign indicating that the merchandise was on sale for 10-percent off. I made a speedy selection along with some road snacks (legend has it that anything you eat while driving has no calories) and headed for the self-checkout aisle.

Much to my dismay yet not to my surprise, the price scan did not produce the promised discount. I love a bargain, and while I could claim that it was principle that made me wave over a store associate, it was really the money. My beckon brought over a young millennial bearing a nametag with Michael at the top and Meijer’s below it. (Get it? Michael Meijers.) He asked how he could help, and I explained the situation.

I expected the normal “I need to do a price check” (10 minutes); “I need to check with a manager” (15 minutes); or “I need to exhume the grave of our founder Hendrik Meijer who’s been taking a dirt nap since 1964 for approval” (30 minutes).

But Michael Meijers would have none of that.  Pushing a series of buttons on the touchscreen, he slashed through the red tape and the discount was applied. It may have been senior leadership, local store management or Michael taking charge, but someone empowered this associate to swiftly resolve my issue, no questions asked.

Whether your retail empire consists of two employees or twenty-two hundred, there should be more than one decision maker when it comes to resolving customer issues. Meijer’s stores have 70,000 employees, and chances are good that each one is empowered to make their shoppers happy, and that their decisions are supported and respected by management.

Your life as a retailer becomes easier when your team can fix issues before they get pushed through multiple layers of calls, contacts and delays that rely on a single person to say “yes.”

Can you trust your team to make a wise and equitable resolution decision? Ask yourself this: Do you trust them with the several hundred bucks in the cash drawer? Do you trust them with the several thousand dollars in small accessory items that can easily grow legs and walk out the door? Do you also trust them to protect and serve your greatest paid-in-advance asset, your incoming shoppers? If you can’t trust them with any of those, why are they working for you?

You will need to provide training on delivering legendary service. This requires a ten-minute investment of your time. Legendary service consists of:

•    Under-promising expectations

•    Over-delivering on your promises

•    Resolving issues with the first contact

•    Erring on the side of the customer when necessary

The final step may be the most difficult: You must reinforce the ability of your team to formulate wise service decisions that you support, even if it’s not the decision you’d make. That requires living with their choices and having their backs when it comes to customer-facing situations. Coach them towards better decision-making in the future when needed, but climbing the ladder should not result in more enhanced resolutions.

Customer-issue resolution need not be a series of horror stories. Slasher film characters like Michael Myers seem to come back from the dead in sequel after sequel. Creating policies that encourage legendary service avoids the horror, creates “happily ever after” stories, and builds a legion of raving fans.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.