During a recent coffee date with a friend, I was reminded of a career-defining moment of mine which helped me realise the true power of doing the right thing for your customers, even when it means losing a sale.
My hope is that by sharing this story with you, you will not only feel inspired to change the way you do business but that you will also have a better understanding of why Customer Experience is a long-term investment that, when done right, comes with benefits that are unparalleled.
A customer, a competitor and a pair of jeans walk into a bar….
Once upon a time on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, there lived a young, ambitious (and mildly opinionated) Store Manager named Tami who was counting down the seconds until it was time to clock off, when a woman in her early 30s (we’ll call her Wendy) approached her and said:
“Look, I’ve been invited to this stupid themed party tonight and I just found out I have to wear jeans. I hate jeans — they make me feel gross and frumpy and uncomfortable but I’m obligated to go. So here’s what I want you to do — I want you to go and grab me two pairs of jeans in a size 14, I don’t care what colours. My budget is $150 and no, I won’t be trying them on”.
Tami was thrilled. A customer was willing to drop $150 on a couple of items, which would allow her to hit her sales target without needing to work for it — it was every sales assistants dream!
However, something about Wendy’s tone struck a chord which she couldn’t seem to shake, and finding the “perfect pair of jeans” for women was her “speciality” (she had a fancy lanyard and everything!), so after a bit of haggling, Tami convinced Wendy to give her a shot.
About 2 hours and 100 pairs of jeans later (ok, it was 15), Tami was able to determine which brand, style, size and shape would best suit Wendy’s body type. There was just one small problem — they were out of stock. Crap.
Sensing Wendy’s frustration, Tami asked her assistant to watch the store and then asked Wendy to follow her. “I know what pair of jeans you need, but we’re out of stock, so I’m taking you to Myer” (an Aussie department store and competitor) who should have them” she explained.
Somewhat puzzled, Wendy followed Tami up the escalator and into the womens fashion department of Myer. “Hey Stacey, any chance you’ve got a pair of “Levis Classic Slims, dark blue in a 32?” Tami asked the sales assistant.
After what felt like the longest 20 seconds in history, Stacey replied “You’re in luck, we’ve got one pair left! before she ducked out the back to grab them.
What happened next changed Tami’s life (and Wendy’s) forever…
“Oh my god” Wendy whispered from inside the fitting room. “Is everything ok?”Tami asked, feeling slightly panicked. “I….I love them!” Wendy exclaimed as she opened the fitting room door with tears in her eyes.
“You’ve gone and done what I thought was impossible. I’ve spent most of my life hating and avoiding jeans because they’ve always made me feel ugly, but in just a couple of hours you’ve somehow managed to find me a pair that not only look great and are comfortable, but that actually make me feel really good about myself! How can I ever thank you?!”
Feeling relieved and humbled that Wendy loved the jeans, Tami smiled and said “You can thank me by having a great time at that party tonight!” — Wendy laughed and waved goodbye as Tami made her way back to work.
But wait, there’s more!
About a week later, a woman approached Tami asking for “the girl who helped Wendy find the perfect pair of jeans” — Tami, somewhat surprised, smiled and said “you’ve found her!” to which the woman replied “Brilliant! Can you help me find a pair, too?”
This continued to happen on an ongoing basis, with more and more women coming into the store looking for Tami so that she could help them find their own versions of the ‘perfect pair of jeans’.
So, what started out as a random act of kindness that initially cost Tami a sale, actually created a ripple effect, that, when factoring in the additional revenue generated by word of mouth marketing and long term customer loyalty, ended up being worth far more than $150.
The moral of the story?
If this ripple effect occurred as the result of just one engagement, with one customer, lead by one employee — what could you achieve if your entire company approached every customer engagement in this way?