The Blonde That Almost Got Away

I experienced a familiar thrill as I walked through the door.  The taxi was coming back for me in 60 minutes so I needed to move quickly.  While my formal mission in Canada was to deliver two conference presentations for Stuart Erskine, CEO of Declare Brands, I had snuck off to indulge my travel fetish.

I could rationalise this particular rendezvous because Stuart had asked me three times since I’d arrived, whether I had brought a guitar with me. He’d seen me play one at previous presentations and was clearly disappointed when I said no. So I figured I’d better do the right thing and check out the local guitar shop. (Such are the sacrifices one makes for one’s clients.)

A young guy in his mid-twenties sauntered over and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I said I wanted something locally made, perhaps an electric archtop jazz guitar. He pointed me toward a glass room in the middle of the shop. To my delight, in that room full of guitars I found and tried out several locally made archtops. One was an electric made of dark wood, another a blonde acoustic. But what I wanted was a blonde electric.  I had now been in the store for 40 minutes with no offers of help, so I went looking for the guy that had greeted me and found him wandering around with a clip board doing a stock take. This is when the situation got interesting.

I left more than a little disappointed

He answered all my questions about how the guitars were constructed and their prices.  But sadly, despite his impressive product knowledge, he had no idea of what he was doing in that shop. At no stage did he ask me what style of music I liked to play, what other guitars I had, why I wanted this type of guitar or where I was going to play it. What he did do is make me feel like an interruption to his stocktaking work. When I asked if there was a locally made blonde electric archtop, he shrugged, said no, asked if there was anything else he could help me with and walked off. 

The taxi was now back and I needed to be at the hotel for a meeting. I reluctantly put the guitars back in their racks and headed toward the front door, at which point on a far wall I spotted her - a local blonde electric beauty – the one I had been looking for! Sadly I had run out of time and so left that store more than a little disappointed. 

Later I told my “non-customer service” story to the franchisees in the conference. I also found out the shop manager’s name and emailed him about my experience. A few hours later he responded. We had several discussions and he thanked me profusely. He had actually studied the CCTV footage of my visit and said he was going to use this as a staff training case study.  After closing his store that night at 9.30pm, he drove the guitar to the hotel where I was staying and let me try it out. He had polished it, put new strings on it and commented on how awesome it sounded as I strummed it in the hotel lobby! Here was someone who understood his job was to create a positive customer experience. He also realised he needed to do more work on teaching this to his team.

The following day in the conference with Stuart and his franchisees we continued our discussion on how easy it is to make customers feel respected and special, just by asking them open ended questions and really listening to them. Stuart also got his performance, played on that beautiful blonde guitar, and was so excited he insisted on paying for it. And so my story ends with not one, but two very happy customers and no doubt, one very happy retailer. That’s the value of listening, the power of putting things right and the importance of understanding why you’re in business.

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