Win Customers For Life

Any time I hire a new employee onto my team, I ask them to follow one rule. This ask is a simple one. It is easy, and it will empower your team in their day to day interactions with guests of any business.

Find a Way to Say Yes

That’s it, nothing more, like I said, simple. Now I know this sets off alarm bells in your head and you are watching your hard-earned profits fly out the window faster than you can imagine. What if I told you that this mantra could MAKE YOU MORE MONEY? What if it could capture customer’s loyalty and bring them back to spend more money with you? This isn’t a sales pitch, this is reality.

When you empower your employees to be creative and train them not to be the police officers of your checkbook, you will see amazing things happen.

Let me begin with my experience with “find a way to say yes”. When I was promoted to District Manager at my company, I moved to an area where I knew no one, including any of my employees. The first week I was in market I wore street clothes and visited all of my stores to see what the view from our customer base was. As I watched and listened, I came to a very quick reality, my staff was only following the rules and didn’t care if it cost them a life-long customer. It was terrifying. I literally watched customers leave to never return. I talked with customers who felt free to chat as I never explained who I was. A few of them told me they were giving us one more chance to make it right before they went running into the arms of the competitor across the street. I want you to think about that for a minute……. how close is your nearest competitor……how long would it take you to drive there? Better yet, how MANY of your competitors are close to you? Or have online ordering that you compete with?

I know this seems too easy. That’s because it is easy.

After I spent my week observing, and it was extremely difficult not to jump in and fix things immediately, I went to my managers and asked them to follow me into a new way of doing things. I asked that they ensure no one leaves our stores with their issue unresolved. We may not have been able to have a definite solution right now, but we would ensure they knew a solution was coming and they had the contact info of management at the location. We told them we would respond within 24 hours and that we would stop at nothing to find the answer. We would own the problem, even if someone else caused it. We would NOT pass it on to someone else.

Now, as we started to work this system we encountered a lot of what I call, layups. These are issues where our employees should not need to ask for help from management, yet they would continually bring the issue to us. Issues like waiving a $5 late fee for a 7-year tenured customer, giving a discount to someone who was military but hadn’t added their employee discount to their account. The list goes on, but they were all equally easy to solve.

More and more I came to a simple realization, my front-line employees couldn’t do things for themselves, they needed someone to give them the green light. While I sat there trying to understand why, it hit me, let them be the hero! I immediately went to my managers and told them simply this, empower your people to “find a way to say yes”.

The Customer is NOT Always Right

This does NOT mean we give the customer exactly what they are asking for. Simply find a way to avoid the word “no” and, the best excuse ever, “they won’t let me do that”. I HATE that phrase! Who is “they”? THEY IS YOU! You have got to get your employees to fight for their customers, to go to bat for them, to stand up for them. I told my front line not to come to a manager if the solution was for $25 or less. They still had to come back and tell us they did the discount or waived the fee, but it would be AFTER the guest left (this is the part where you freak out and hold tight to your wallet).

Building a Team of Hero’s Takes Guts

The next thing I told my management team was, “you are not allowed to get mad if they do it wrong”. We wanted them to feel empowered. If they got yelled at they would stop trying to be the hero. It was ok to ask for their justification, ask for customer tenure details, how much money did it make us from a revenue prospective and so on. Once we had the backstory, we could have an open dialogue about what WE would have done and thanked them for working hard to protect the customer base. If they did something wrong we would discuss the right solution. If they made the same mistake next time, then you can let a little frustration show. Remember though, even if they made a small mistake, does the customer revenue outweigh the discount or waived fee?

“You can exchange it, but you need to go to the location you bought it from”

I recently went to a large retailer and bought my wife a sewing machine so she could make our Halloween costumes. She used it for a few days and then it broke, brand new machine, broken. I told my wife “no worries love, I will exchange it, no problem” and off to the retailer I went. My mistake, apparently, was going to a different location of the same retailer. This was in the same town, no more than 5 miles apart. It was a 10-minute drive from A to B. I walked to customer service and talked to a woman and explained my situation. “I bought this a few days ago, it broke, and I would like to exchange it for the same model”. What I heard next floored me. She told me, “You can exchange it, but you need to go to the location you bought it from”. I couldn’t understand (I still don’t), why did I need to go back to the original location when they were a national retailer with thousands of locations. What If I was traveling, would I be told the same thing? After 15 minutes of back and forth and me finally about to lose my mind, a manager came to us and asked what he could do to help. I explained that I just wanted to exchange this sewing machine as it was defective. The manager, Matt, looked at me and said, “no problem, go back and grab the other one and come here and we will get you swapped out soon enough”. The funniest part of this, the woman looked at HER MANAGER and said “you aren’t supposed to do that.”

Policy is the Berlin Wall of Customer Service

I was happy, yet disappointed. Why did it take all of that to get to this conclusion. If it was that easy why didn’t the Women say yes? I was to the point of going back to the original location and returning it altogether. I had already looked it up on Amazon to see if they had the same model or, gasp, a more expensive model since this one broke so easily. When I asked Matt why she was so stubborn, he said a few words I will never forget, nor understand, “It’s policy”.

Policy will not pay your bills and it will not grow your customer base. Policy is the Berlin wall of customer service. Do you want your customers on your side of the wall or on the other side, with your competitors? When someone comes to you with a problem, in this age of competition, you have the opportunity to help them leave happy or help them test out your competition. Which do you want to accomplish?

I am not asking you to give blank checks to your employees nor am I advocating for buying customer happiness. I am imploring you to empower your people to look for a way to make your customer feel valued and allow them to find a solution. They do not have to agree to give a free month of services because a customer is upset, but could they offer to waive a half month, or could they offer a free one-time visit with the purchase of another visit? What if they agreed to give a 10% discount for the next 6 months? Most people see that as 10% lost for 6 months. I see that as a customer for the next 6 months who is with us and not across the street. Is 90% of 6 months revenue better than 0% from that customer forever?

Everyone has their own red line, the amount they would allow their front line to be empowered with. Figure out your red line and talk thru it with your team. This is not to buy customers, it is to show your team that what they do makes a difference, they are part of the solution.

Beg them to avoid “no”, instead ask that they “find a way to say yes”. You will win customers for life when you do.

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