October is a month often associated with gratitude in Canada. It’s also when business starts to ramp up and we start to get busy. During peak season, we focus on putting out fires rather than seeing the bigger picture, and neglect to tell our clients how much we appreciate them. This month, I want to share a personal anecdote that taught me to keep clients top of mind.
I worked at Lululemon as an ‘educator’ or guest service representative for several years. One memorable night, I was working the closing shift on a chaotic day. The store finally slowed down, and I was hopeful our team would be able to leave without too much fuss. I was excited to get home, change into my pyjamas, and dive into the latest Law & Order episode. The manager was about to lock the door and dim the lights, but then, as if on cue, the door swung open, and a guest walked inside.
I tried to be optimistic. Hopefully the guest was in a rush and needed to buy something last minute, but as she started to stockpile her arms with spandex leggings, I knew she wasn’t going to be quick. At Lululemon, there is a rule: the music doesn’t get turned off until the last guest leaves the store. The team is responsible for providing the guest with a five-star customer service experience from start to finish.
So, rather than attend to the guest and offer this five-star experience, I decided it was best to start the ‘closing activities’: folding pants, cleaning the mirror, organizing the size racks. Why not be efficient? As I started to grab for the broom, my manager pulled me to the side – “Hey Linley, did you know we have a guest in the store?”
Of course, I knew. This guest was the only thing standing between me, a bowl of popcorn, and detectives Benson and Stabler. I responded, “I thought it would be good to get a head start on closing activities so we can all get out of here.”
She paused. “I agree. It would be nice to get out of here early, but guests are our priority. If we didn’t have guests, we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t have our jobs.”
She was right.
Our clients are the reason we’re in business. Servicing clients and helping them to solve their garment and textile care problems are the reason we’re in business. Problem solving with our clients in a way that’s more effective and empathetic than our competitors is the reason we’re in business.
When we start to get busy, issues increase, patience grows thin, and our team can start to resent our clients. As leaders, we need to consistently remind our CSRs how important it is to appreciate our clients and be grateful for their business. Take a proactive approach to relationships and show your clients that you care. This may mean staying open until the last customer is served, or simply using a client’s name in every store interaction. Take a moment to make a list of shopping or service experiences where you’ve felt appreciated. Use this as a springboard to identify how you want to make your own clients feel. Keep it simple and authentic. Analyze negative experiences and use them as a guide of what not to do. Thank your clients for their business and loyalty. It will pay dividends.
As for the Lululemon guest – her purchases that night helped us to exceed our sales goal. She also felt terrible when she learned she had kept the team late, but also appreciated our efforts. It felt good that she left our store happy. And thank goodness for PVR.
Linley McConnell is the sales and marketing manager of Gibson's Cleaners in Toronto. She can be reached at email@example.com. She writes on industry issues from a Third Generation perspective.