Blog Post

Does Your Culture Stick When Times are Tough?

When something goes wrong with a customer, do you take the opportunity to stand up, “Say Sorry,” and make things right? Are your reps empowered to do the right thing…to make decisions in business that are congruent with the decisions they’d make in their personal lives?

When things go wrong and a decision has to be made about how to right the wrong, is this a shining moment? Have you laid the cultural groundwork to enable people to make decisions congruent with how they should treat customers? Learn how Zane’s Cycles sells $15 million from a single bike shop by making their culture stick.

Beloved companies decide to “Say Sorry”
Here’s a story to inspire saying “sorry” well…from Zane’s Cycles in Connecticut. A customer was paying on layaway for a special bike she was going to give her husband for a surprise Valentine’s Day gift. Greg, a Zane’s employee, was supposed to display that particular bike in the window of the store on Valentine’s Day so the customer could stroll past the bike store with her husband on their way to a romantic dinner. Things didn’t work out as planned, however, because Greg forgot to display the bike in the window that day.

Zane’s felt horrible about the mistake and apologized to the customer by delivering the bike to her house and forgiving the final payment. And Greg, the salesperson who forgot to display the bike, wrote Chris Zane an apology letter and enclosed a personal check for half the cost of the bike (which Zane never cashed). Talk about a wow moment! Greg was willing to be out a week’s pay to right the wrong.

Greg works in an environment at Zane’s where he is encouraged to do the right thing. And Zane and Greg both clearly understand the value of a lifetime customer. The recovery of this one customer, while memorable, is not an isolated act of customer heroism, but a usual part of this (and any) beloved company. The cultural instinct to do the right thing and repair broken relationships is genuine and caring.

Where are you on the “Sorry” Competency Meter?
Is your staff clear on how to do what’s right? Do they know they have permission to act quickly and remedy relationships? Do your employees know what they are allowed to do? Should do? And what’s really at stake when they are talking to and working with you primary assets—customers!

Ask around, see if your employees know what customer heroics are possible or allowed. If they have no idea or it varies, fill in the gaps. Think about what you can do for customers and provide examples and ideas for your employees to follow. Make it very clear what the employees are allowed to do to make customers happy—even go as far as naming a dollar amount that’s allowable to spend.

Creating a culture that empowers your employees will ultimately lead to positive relationships with lifetime customers. Customers will recognize an empowered employee by their confidence in handling everything from the basics to resolving more complex issues or problems. Gaining lifetime customers will be worth the time it takes to educate your employees on their options. And, like Chris Zane, who forgave a debt due to an error made in his shop, modeling good resolution technique will teach your staff how to be genuine and effective ambassadors for your company.

P.S.: Greg still works for Zane’s!

 

About the author

Author of two best-selling books: I Love You More Than My Dog, which presents best practices for companies to move from an “everyday” company to a “beloved” company, and Chief Customer Officer, which is the roadmap purchased and followed by more than 60 percent of all newly minted customer leaders. Bliss was the chief customer officer leading customer focus at Lands' End, Microsoft, Allstate, Mazda and Coldwell Banker Corporations. Her company, Customer Bliss, helps leaders and their companies, such as AAA, Ameritrade, Costco, Yahoo! and Zappos, create an actionable path for driving the customer loyalty commitment into business operations.

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