As seen on P. William Clarke .com – 

Early one Saturday morning, I decided to pick up a few things at my local Home Depot. I threw on some ratty jeans, a paint stained t-shirt, a hat and off I went.

About mid way across the front of the store, I was greeted by an eager employee (Andy) who so pleasantly asked me what I was looking for. I told him and he kindly walked me there. As I looked through the product selection, he stood beside me as if he were waiting to answer any questions I may have.

Once I found what I wanted Andy asked if I needed anything else. I said, “Just a couple of things in plumbing.” He said, “I’ll walk you there.” I said, “No thanks, I know right where it is.” He said, “Are you sure” I told him I was all set but couldn’t help but thinking this guy was the best Home Depot employee in the world! 

Here’s where it gets interesting. As I strolled along, another employee greeted me and asked if I needed any help in the plumbing area. I didn’t quite know what to make if it. I was heading the plumbing area but how did she know that, since I was standing in the kitchen and bath area about five isles from the plumbing department? Maybe Andy had called her to let her know there was a customer on the way to plumbing.

As I glanced into one of the bathroom display mirrors, suddenly it all came together! There I was, a home depot customer looking in the mirror at me wearing a Lowe’s hat! I kind of felt silly but on the other hand, I figured I’d uncovered the secret of getting good customer service. (Just wear a competitor’s hat.)

Now in the plumbing isle, I began searching for the things I needed and out of the corner of my eye I noticed Andy walking towards me. I didn’t look up, but when he got to me he stopped. I looked up and he said, “Need any help finding what you’re looking for?” I said. No, but I am going to wear this Lowe’s hat here more often. He smiled and pulled a new Home Depot hat out from behind his back and said, “I’d really hoped you’d consider wearing this one instead.” We both chuckled and exchanged some small talk. At the check out I saw Andy again. Only this time it was just a picture hung on the front wall with a sign below it labeled “store manager.”

In business, the object is to make every customer feel the way I felt on this shopping trip. The reality is, most employees go through the motions of their job focused on their tasks and the time clock instead of focusing on the customer experience. Many companies try to promote customer service practices by telling associates to smile be friendly and greet everyone you come in contact with. The reality is that associates need to understand they are competing for the customers business every time they come into contact with them. Greeting a customer in a store today has little to do with what they will buy on this shopping trip but it does influence their future shopping habits.

Andy did the right thing here. He identified a customer that may be on the fence and attempted to solidify the relationship by providing outstanding personal service. I was an easy target because I was wearing the competitor’s hat. Most customers that are on the fence don’t advertise it the way I did. As a result, you need to treat each customer interaction as if you were competing with a competitor for their business. All you need to do is be one notch ahead of the competition in this area to make a difference. You may only have one shot with a customer so make it count.

Now, if you are waiting for someone else to take the lead, don’t. Remember, somebody else is actually you. Get behind Andy and make it your personal mission to create a positive experience for each customer. Don’t wait till next time or tomorrow, do it now there’s no second chance so make sure you get it right the first time.

All the best,

P. William Clarke

Paul William Clarke

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