In the last two posts, we have looked at positive ways of overcoming obstacles in our private lives.
But we can use the same principle in our business activities, too. For example, in customer service, there will be times when our service is not as good as we’d like it to be. The way we handle those adverse situations can build ‘customers for life’. Having a solid ‘bounce back strategy’ in place helps to turn ‘stumbling blocks into stepping stones’.
Let me tell you a personal story. My life is busy, really busy. Years ago I found a way of delegating the purchasing of groceries so that I could use that shopping time more constructively. Consequently my cupboards have always been fully stocked, regardless of whether I’m on a trip or ‘on home ground’.
My system is as follows: I prepared stocklists (you can see that I come from a retail background!) of the ideal level of each item in every grocery, laundry or ‘cleaning’ cupboard in my house. My housekeeper was then taught how to ‘take stock’ every Tuesday and in the third column fill in the missing items. She then faxed that list to the grocery store, and they made up the order and delivered it, placing the goods in my kitchen. ‘Housekeeper Nellie’ then unpacked and marked off the items, placing them in the correct cupboards. At the end of each month I paid the account. Simple!
This system has been effective for 20 years. Or, at least it did work until………….Wembley Supermarket was assimilated into a group and we reluctantly moved to another store. Let’s call it ‘J’. But they were great – until they were taken over by a ‘bigger and better’ store. Oops! Things started to go wrong and matters became worse when ‘J’ was closed and absorbed into the bigger store. Nothing was ever right. We were constantly ‘stumbling’. Ordinary things ordered, like a popular brand laundry powder were not delivered. We battled on for a few months as we had put so much effort into trying to salvage an unsatisfactory situation. Then the crunch came.
A year ago, I noticed that my secretary was having to retype the orders for the housekeeper. That was ridiculous, a waste of time. The reason was that the grocery store’s fax machine was not working. And yes, in South Africa, people do still use faxes – not often – but in the case of my housekeeper, she is not able to use a computer for e-mailing. And the grocery store receives many faxes.
After repeated phonecalls I went in to see the PR lady who treated me with disdain and told me to fetch my order and bring it in. So, she was expecting me to get in the car, travel home, collect my order and bring it back to the store? I suggested that she sends the driver to collect it. ‘We can’t do that… it costs us money’. So, it was okay to tell one of your best customers to waste her time driving home to fetch the order, but not okay to go and collect the order!
Two days later she phoned and told me that her boss, the owner had said that as we were such dissatisfied customers, we should rather shop elsewhere. I was stunned. It was easier to lose a customer than to fix your fax machine?
Well, I immediately phoned their competitors and the owner welcomed me as a customer. The first week, I repeated the order I’d placed with the ‘Low Service Mentality’ family grocery store, and found that our new ‘Family Store’ was 10% cheaper on all items I could compare. That was an unexpected bonus!
The previous store presented many ‘stumbling blocks’ and the new store has opened up many new pathways for us. For example, a few weeks ago I was starting a new 12-session ‘in house’ training course in ‘business communication skills’. The workbooks we prepare are 150 pages, so I need a special type of lever-arch file for each participant. I usually buy them at ‘The Mall’ or at a large ‘office supplies’ store. But I had seen similar files at our ‘family grocery store’.
I was running out of time and decided to phone on the ‘off chance’ that they still had them in stock. (The ‘back to school promotion’ was over.) Estelle, the person responsible for our account phoned me back in 5 minutes, confirming that she had managed to locate 15 black files and that was exactly what I needed. I was so happy!
Then she continued: ‘Mrs. Eckstein, can we please deliver them to you’? I was ‘blown away’, but had reservations. I needed them that afternoon, and they would most probably deliver only the next day. I would rather drive down and fetch them. She reassured me, ‘No, Mrs Eckstein, we’ll deliver the files now’. I couldn’t believe it. In 20 minutes from when I made that first phonecall, the files were at my office! This is just one example of the way they ‘go the extra mile’.
I have dealt with ‘The Family Store’ for a year now, so they have delivered over 50 orders to me. I commend them on the consistently outstanding service provided. It starts with the owner and filters down to the staff at all levels.
This is an excellent example of turning ‘stumbling blocks’ into ‘stepping stones’. What business examples do you have?
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