Are your managers undermining the work of their subordinates? Does your company really put the customer first? Sears provides us a great example of what not to do:
This past weekend we went to Sears to buy a dishwasher. The sales associate, Brandi, was very pleasant and knowledgeable. She carefully explained all our options and helped us make a decision.
I didn’t want to pay the price they had listed. I asked Brandi what she could do for me. She reverted back to pitching Sears’ promotion-of-the-week: “buy with a Sears credit card and get a discount.” I don’t have a Sears card, nor do I want one.
Try as I may, I couldn’t get any discount out of Brandi. Unfortunately, Brandi was not empowered to do anything.
On the verge of paying for the dishwasher, I again asked what kind of discount she could give me as a loyal customer. You see, we’ve bought all our other major home appliances from Sears: washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, and microwave. Plus our yard tools: mower and weedwacker. Not to mention clothes, tools, etc. Surely for such a loyal customer as myself, I’d get some kind of “special” treatment.
Poor Brandi said she couldn’t because her manager (she pointed to him across the way) wouldn’t go for it. I said, “Great, let’s go talk to him.”
Managers Can Completely Undo the Work of Subordinates
I introduced myself to Rod, the manager, and said, “Brandi tells me she isn’t able to offer me, a loyal customer, a discount.” I explained again about all the appliances I’ve purchased from Sears. Rod responded: “We don’t negotiate.” His response was delivered like the US Government telling a terrorist “We don’t negotiate.” Cold, stern, and with a glare in his eye.
I responded: “Well, maybe not at this location.”
Rod: “Which location are you talking about?”
I told him about the other Sears store and that they treated us very well on our last purchase.
Rod: “Hmph. That’s surprising because I was the manager at that store.”
That response set me back a bit. I thought, “What? You’re denying I had a good experience and was treated well in your store on your watch?”
His response completely defied logic and I simply had to walk away muttering, “I guess I’m going to have to reconsider my purchase.”
Customers vs. Company Policy
What went wrong in this exchange? How did I go from being happy and well-treated by Brandi to angry (with steam coming out of my ears) after talking with her manager?
Why? Because Rod, and his employer, Sears, value following company policy more than retaining a customer and closing the sale.
This sounds completely backward to me as both a customer and a small business owner. What do you think?
The Ideal Scenario
Here’s how things could have played out:
Me: “What discount can you give me, a loyal customer?”
Rod: “I really appreciate you returning to Sears for your appliance needs. It means a lot to me personally, and to our company, to have such a loyal customer as yourself. In order to be fair to all our customers, the price we have listed is the best possible price we can offer today. We do have a 30 day price guarantee. In fact, come with me, let’s go call Best Buy, Lowe’s, and Home Depot and see if they can beat our offer right now.”
Rod would then take me to an office and make the phone calls, detailing my Sears dishwasher’s specifications, and getting prices from the competition.
If anybody was lower priced, Rod would beat the price right there. If not, he would say, “Even though our competitors couldn’t beat our price today doesn’t mean they can’t have a sale next week. Our 30 day price guarantee still holds.
“Here is my card. Take it and call me if you see a lower price and I’ll personally take care of getting you a refund for the difference. In fact, by making your purchase with us today, we’ll add you to our “price watch database” where we’ll automatically send you a check if Sears sells your dishwasher for a lower price anytime during the next 30 days.”
Doesn’t that make for a more happy ending? I wish it had played out that way. Sears, are you listening?
Change Your Company Policy
What about all the other companies out there? You can beat Sears today by simply turning your attention to the customer. My “ideal scenario” was inspired by Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. Read that book and you’ll get inspired to “wow” your customers.