Customer Service has always been a passion of mine. I do not know where it came from, but it has always been a part of me. Customer Service has been one of my main platforms in my Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching Leadership Development business since it started in 1993. Last weekend I got the opportunity to match my words with my actions.
In addition to my main business, The Fralix Group, Inc., I have a small antiques and gifts business inside Northrop Mall in Southport. I have had this business since the early 1990’s. This is my fun side. Mike reminds me that it is more of a hobby than a business, which is absolutely true.
Last weekend I was at the mall, puttering around. While I do “work” two to three days a month there, as many dealers do, on this particular day I was not scheduled to work, although I was helping behind the counter when a couple came into the shop. The woman was so excited and started to tell us how this was her favorite shop, that she had been quarantined for over a year, and this was her first trip to a store. She was so excited that she was bubbling over!
Then a problem surfaced. Her male partner was not wearing a mask. The staff member in charge politely told him that he would need to put on a mask, to which he replied, “I do not have one. Do you have one I can have?” The staff member told him we had some for sale and pointed those out to him. He replied, “You mean I have to buy one?! You don’t have any for customers without them having to buy one?” He was told that we previously had some for $1, but those were all gone, and pointed the ones out that were for sale for $7.50 and $8.00. He was becoming increasingly more frustrated. The woman who accompanied him seemed to be somewhat oblivious to what was happening about the masks; she was shopping already, properly masked.
For whatever reason, and the only reason I know of is that I wanted to turn this negative situation around, I decided to intervene. I told the man, “I am going to give you a mask.” And I did. I gave him one of the $8 masks that I had for sale. Those masks were on consignment, which means they were someone else’s, not technically mine, but that did not matter to me. I was willing to pay for the $8 mask myself to turn this situation into a positive one. And it did just that. The man was appreciative and commenced to shop.
About an hour later the couple checked out after having spent more than $1700! For an $8 mask. I am convinced that none of those sales would have happened if the customer had not been given the $8 mask. Maybe because of the principle of the matter. Maybe he really thought that the shop should have supplied him a mask. Maybe it was financial. It is possible that he did not have $8 to buy a mask. (How could this be, if they spent more than $1700?! She spent more than $1700! He spent nothing.) Or maybe for another reason. I did not know the man’s thinking. I did not really know the thinking of anyone else who was looking on to this situation, and there were several people around and aware. I only knew mine. I was very clear about my thinking. What was my thinking?
I wanted to de-escalate the situation, and by giving the customer the mask, it did. I wanted the customer to know we heard him, that we cared about his dilemma. He saw that, and I think, felt it. He thanked me several times over the next hour while his female friend shopped. I did not want us (not just me, but the other staff and the mall as well,) to stand on principle, to be right, and in so doing, make the customer wrong. I wanted to solve this problem and have a satisfied customer. I do believe that all of that was accomplished. And this wasn’t about me. It was about the customer. The customer is King.
This does not mean that the customer is always right. Far from it. Nor does it mean that the customer’s expectations are reasonable. They sometimes aren’t. What it does mean is that the customer is King. The customer can do without us. But we cannot do without the customer. If we forget this, and allow ourselves to focus on the customer’s responsibility (such as coming in with a mask, or having to buy one) instead of ours (solving the customer’s problems,) we do so at our own peril. The customer is King.
None of the more than $1700 in sales went to me. In fact, solving this customer dilemma cost me $8.00, since I will pay the person whose mask made the sales possible.