What do coffee shopping and shoe shopping have in common? Not much on the surface, except that at some point during in-person shopping customer service comes into play. As you compare these shopping stories I invite you to consider, what would you say?
Shopping Story #1: The Coffee Snob
My friend Nancy was out of coffee beans so off we went to try a new local coffee shop. Our immediate impression was positive; nice vibe, rich coffee smell, visually attractive. Then Nancy stepped up to the counter and here’s what happened:
Nancy: I have a Keurig filter and I’m wondering if you know the right grind for this type of machine?
Coffee Snob: Well, if you’re using a Keurig you’re not going to get a good result. It’s just not a sophisticated way to make coffee.
Nancy: Oh, so you don’t know how to grind it for a Keurig? Well, this is the machine we have in our house. Is there any way you can accommodate for this?
Coffee Snob: I wouldn’t even want to try. This is just not the right method for brewing a good cup of coffee.
Shopping Story #2: The Shoe Maven
My sisters and I love to shop the post-holiday sale at Hulit’s Shoe Store in Princeton, New Jersey. Here’s how this year’s outing unfolded.
After scouring the store, my sister Andrea selected a few boots to try on. The sales guy, Dave, eagerly retrieved armfuls of boxes from the basement stockroom. Sporting the first pair, Andrea took a small step and winced, “I feel something funny in the ball of my foot with this pair.” Dave replied, “That’s good to pay attention to. You want to break the shoe in—not have the shoe break you in.”
As he grabbed a different pair from the shelf he added, “This pair has the heel height you’re looking for and should have more room in the toe.” Each time Andrea slipped her foot into a boot and declared it, “not quite right,” Dave asked a few more questions then cheerfully gathered different models and sizes. As Andrea tried on lots of boots, Dave’s patience and cheerfulness didn’t wane once—even after she failed to make a purchase.
One Powerful Lesson
Every consumer has a myriad of choices. We can shop local and small, box store and big, or online. We may try a store once and never return or become a faithful customer. So, what factors make us loyal customers? These two small tales highlight one powerful way business owners and employees get us to keep coming back.
Dave, the Shoe Maven, took time (and lots of it) to first find out what Andrea was looking for in a boot. And he kept asking as she tried on different sizes and styles. Contrast this to the Coffee Snob who quickly dismissed Nancy’s request for a Keurig grind without even trying to find out what kind of taste she was after. (Of course he then ventured into the worst customer service territory by hurling a not very well-disguised attack when he called her coffee tastes unsophisticated.)
That key difference—first finding out what the customer wants—sets up the rest of the customer’s experience. We might find ourselves thinking,
“Is this a business that cares about what I want?”
“Is this a business that tries to sell me what they want?
It’s as simple as that and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Seek first to understand and then to be understood. When we take time to understand what the customer wants we have a much better chance at helping them appreciate how our products or services can help.
So, no matter what your business, I’d say that offering customer service that makes an effort to first find out what the customer wants is the best place to start. What would you say?
P.S. I couldn’t resist speaking up to the Coffee Snob and added, “From what you just said it feels like you called my friend unsophisticated. And she’s one of the most sophisticated people I know.” Do you think he got it?
Covey Quote from quotepixel.com