I don't like to shop. Clothes shopping, grocery shopping, car shopping; it doesn't matter – I don't like it. I want to get in, get what I want (fast), and get out. That's my strategy when I have to shop. Two recent shopping experiences, however, were pleasant surprises. Both of these experiences showcased customer service at its best, and its most simple. Once again I was reminded that great service isn't about grand acts, it's about common courtesy, artfully delivered.
The first story took place while on vacation in Chicago. I needed to buy a pair of casual shoes (I had forgotten mine at home). I found myself in a store called the Walking Company in a Chicago mall. A friend once told me that it was a good store. It was crowded, so I almost left. But one of the salespeople made eye contact with me. It wasn't the kind of eye contact that said, "Oh no, another customer." Instead, it was eye contact that said, "I know you're there, and I'll be right with you." It was good eye contact.
So I browsed around for a couple of minutes and found a pair of shoes I liked. Sure enough, the salesperson was right next to me and she said, "Sorry about the wait, let's get you some shoes." I showed her the pair I was interested in and asked to try a size ten. She said, "Let's measure your foot just to make sure." I know that I wear a size ten, but her whole demeanor showed that she wanted to make sure I got the right shoes. She was a professional.
She measured my foot and said, "Size ten is right, but you have a very ‘Reubenesque' foot." I didn't know what that meant but she sure seemed to know what she was talking about. "I've got to tell you, the type of shoe you've selected won't be the most comfortable for you. I think this other style would feel much better." Being the skeptic that I am I looked at the price of her suggested shoes to see how much she was upselling me. Same price. Hmm. With nothing to lose I tried on the style she suggested and they were extremely comfortable. Enough time has passed since buying the shoes that any psychological effect has passed – they are truly the most comfortable pair of casual shoes I've ever owned (I wear them all the time).
As I paid for the shoes, the salesperson continued to wow me. She said, "If you ever buy a pair of shoes somewhere else, and I don't know why you would, be sure to tell the salesperson that the arches in your foot have fallen just a little, and you need shoes with some arch support – just like these."
When I get good service like this, I want to keep a good thing going. I asked her if there is a Walking Company in Orlando, where I live. "Absolutely, it's at the Millennium Mall." I thanked her (sincerely) and left. Since then I've bought two pair of dress shoes at the Orlando Walking Company, both times with great service and incredibly comfortable shoes. I can't imagine buying shoes anywhere else. And I've sent plenty of friends there.
Now, let's look at what this Walking Company salesperson did that caused this to be a great shopping experience. I'll analyze the details in a moment, but one word sums up her style – professional. This lady was a professional in every sense of the word. Her skills would apply anywhere. The skills that she demonstrated are as applicable to a bank, hospital, theme park, or law office as they are to a shoe store. Here are four universal traits of a professional in any job position:
At the beginning of the article I mentioned that there were two recent shopping experiences that stood out for me. The second experience was while buying a fountain pen. I went to a store called Write On (cute, huh?). The salesperson was a professional who loved fountain pens. He had me write something on a pad so that he could see how much pressure I use while writing in order to recommend the correct pen. He even gave me an instruction sheet that he had personally done for the care of a fountain pen. It was an amazing experience that will definitely bring me back to that store. I sure enjoyed buying that pen.
The behaviors are simple. What's not simple is the consistent application of the behaviors. Being a true professional takes thought and effort. But, once you are a true professional you can go just about anywhere. The skills are universal and they are very rare. True professionals stand out from the crowd and grow rewarding and satisfying careers. And the customers of the world know when a true professional is at work.
About the Author
Dennis Snow is the president of Snow & Associates, Inc. Dennis worked with the Walt Disney World Company for twenty years and now consults with organizations around the world, helping them achieve their customer service goals. He is the author of "Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service" and "Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life." You can reach Dennis at (407) 294-1855 or visit his website at www.snowassociates.com.