An experience with a sales associate in a store in Alabama last week impressed upon me the need for a customer advocate. I was reminded of my health care background, and the role of a patient advocate. When I experienced the care and consideration of this sales associate, I was immediately taken back, and felt just as cared for as patient advocates care for patients. Why not have customer advocates, regardless of whether the term “advocate” is used? For it is the behavior that is important, not the title.
I was in a lovely and large gift shop, Magnolias in Pell City. I had gone in with a friend, not expecting to find what I needed, which was a book for a soon to arrive grandchild of another friend. The organizer of the shower suggested that the guests bring a book for the baby instead of a card, which I thought was a great idea. I knew which book I wanted to give, one that I had read to my granddaughters many times, Good Night Moon. Now this is a popular book, but I had no hopes that this gift shop would have baby books, much less that it would have this particular book. To my surprise, the shop had quite a good selection of baby books, but not Good Night Moon. I decided to ask the sales associate if perhaps they did have the book, just not on the shelf, but in the back in stock. I was not surprised to hear, no they didn’t. She then added, “But I know that book, it is one of my favorites, and you can get it at Walmart; I saw it there the other day!” She seemed genuinely happy to be able to provide that information. And I was genuinely happy, for it is the book I wanted, and Walmart was just a mile away. I thanked the customer advocate (previously called the sales associate) and went to Walmart and purchased the book. But not before telling her how valuable she had been to me, for she cared more about meeting the customer need than selling one of the store’s books.
Now, if you have your store manager or store owner hat on, you may be thinking the customer advocate/sales associate was not protecting the store’s profits, for she lost the store a sale. Yes, she did lose the store a sale, but she gained a loyal fan/customer, which can translate into more future sales. And not just that, but I want to make her and the store famous, giving this example of a sales associate caring more about the customer’s needs than the short term profit of the store. Can you imagine how much better the long term profits of a store can be when the staff have this mentality and behave in this manner?
I regret that I have misplaced the business card of the customer advocate/sales associate, and thus cannot name her, and give her the credit that she is due. And I am not concerned that the store manager would have any concern about her actions, for when I mentioned what I planned to do, she was not just ok with it, but excited about it! That told me that the culture of the store is to meet customer needs, and she had done that, so she was not at all worried about what management would think about her actions.
Now, what about you and your sales associates? Are you more focused on meeting customer needs, or do short term profits drive your behavior?
Think about it. And do not just think about it, do something about it. Be a customer advocate. Long term profits will be the result.