She Broke the Rules

My dad is getting older and every time he tries to put his shoes on standing up when leaving our home, I’m scared he is going to fall down. The obvious solution; buy a small bench or stool for placement in the front entry.

And so my search began.  It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. We are in a condo which meant a small-scaled stool was needed.  After numerous shops, unable to find what I was looking for, I finally found a beautiful stool, with a linen covered cushion.  The problem, it was on clearance and all sales were final.

I took the chance, put the box in my cart and went home.  When I got home and opened the box, I realized that the stool must have been a return.  It was not packed correctly, the directions to put it together were missing and so was the hardware to do so.  Figuring out how to put the stool together was not a problem, but I did not have the hardware I needed.  And so I brought the stool back to the store.

I didn’t bring it back hoping for a refund; I just hoped they had extra hardware so I could build the stool.  The young lady that helped me went above and beyond. When I explained the problem, she scanned the barcode, saw there were three stools in stock and went to look for hardware or a replacement stool.  After about 10 minutes she returned.  She simply could not find the stools and offered to refund my money, even though my sales receipt clearly said FINAL SALE.  When I thanked her for breaking the rules, she simply said “That stool was no good to you like that. We want you to be happy with your purchase.”

I took a chance when I purchased that stool.  I knew there was a risk buying it “as is”.  I’ve taken that risk before and by far the majority of the time, it has paid off.  The young lady did not have to give me my money back.  My sales receipt clearly stated the conditions of the sale, but as a service professional she took it upon herself to put the customer ahead of the policy.

And the result … I ended up purchasing a beautiful print to put on the wall next to the new bench I knew I would eventually find elsewhere.  The print cost twice as much as the “as is” stool.

Moral of the story:  Putting the customer first is good for business.

Are You Rewarding the Right Things?


Customer-focused companies put the customer at the centre of their business and business decisions.  Customer-focused companies concentrate on long-term goals, like customer satisfaction, retention and repeat business instead of short-term goals like “increase dessert sales by 10%”.

Teaching your team to effectively up-sell is important.  Those skills help grow your business and improve your bottom line, but not to the same extent as loyal, repeat customers who keep coming back to your business and refer their friends, families and colleagues to you.

Customer-focused companies:

  1. Live the customer experience.  In some of the hotels I’ve stayed at, I’m pretty sure the manager has not actually tasted the coffee put in the guest rooms.  As a woman, I appreciate a full-length mirror in the room.  How is the lighting?  Is there room on the desk for your customer’s laptop or is it covered with promotional materials?
  2. Look for ways to make the customer feel special.  Making your customer feel special can be as simple as addressing them by name or by remembering that they like their breakfast with eggs over-easy and lightly toasted rye bread.  It could be putting fresh flowers in the bathroom, speaking directly to the children when taking their order or offering to carry a senior’s tray to the table.
  3. Encourage customer feedback.  Customer-focused companies want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly from their customers. They want to know what their customers like and what they don’t like.  They take the information they receive seriously and use that information to maintain and improve their customer’s experience.
  4. Reward employees for service excellence.  When customer satisfaction is the main goal of a company, it doesn’t make sense to reward product sales.  Rewards based on the number of desserts or upgrades sold send the message the sale is the priority.  Customer-focused companies recognize and reward initiatives and actions that improve a customer’s service experience.

The bonus is that customers who feel valued, customers who believe that their satisfaction is your number one priority are more likely to stay at their table a little longer and enjoy dessert and coffee.  Customers who trust you and respect you are more likely to pay an extra $20 for the upgraded room.  The up-sell happens naturally when you focus on the customer first, instead of the sale.

What do you think?