…. the sign said at the check-out counter of the Men’s Wearhouse in Sarasota FL, where I recently had bought a tux shirt and studs. I had come back to return the studs because unbeknownst to me, the shirt I had bought there already had studs.
As I read the sign, I expected it to conclude with “… (then) please let us know by filling out this brief survey”, which would then be aggregated at their corporate office with others to see how the sales staff was doing, and maybe where they were lagging and maybe even what they were doing especially well, and certainly how they were doing versus other stores.
But that’s not how the sign ended. Here’s the total sign
“If You Received World Class Customer Service, Ring the Bell!”
Right below the sign, there was the common “ring for service” bell found at the front desks of many inns and hotels. There were no wires, and no forms to fill out. Just a plain service bell.
My sales receipt clearly stated that I would get (only) an in-store credit for a return, but I was hoping for a full cash refund – of over $50.
I waited for Melissa, a store assistant manager to finish the transaction, which to my delight, ended with her crediting my credit card. (I often wonder whether Life is made up of and fueled by many small victories, rather than the few big ones that we spend so much time trying to achieve!)
Within seconds, I lunged for the bell and rang it twice – loudly. Everyone in the store looked over at the counter. Melissa beamed. I began thinking: There’s no reward or up-the-chain recognition for this, but it seemed like a great idea. Why? Maybe because…
- It was easy – and spontaneous – for the customer to do. It did not require considerable time to fill out a form, and it didn’t set up a situation where the sales clerk felt obligated to hand the customer a form, or for the customer to fill out a form to make the sales clerk feel good (which can too easily result in the most persuasive sales clerk getting the most mentions and the customer feeling put upon).
- It was public – everyone in the store knew that someone had (really) delivered world class service.
- It was immediate – there was no lag between the “world class customer service” and the public recognition of it.
- It was impactful, at least it seemed to have the potential for making impact
– on the employee, who got immediate, genuine appreciation for a job well done;
– on the customer, who, by publically expressing appreciation, was able to feel that appreciation and enjoyment in giving gratitude;
– on other customers, who, hearing the bell, then expected (and thus more likely saw) “world class service”;
– on other staff, who, hearing the bell, became (more) conscious of what “world class service” feels/looks like to customers, and what other staff are doing to generate it, and thus more likely themselves to think of ways to deliver their own version of “world class service.”
It was also positive, which I have found has greater impact than the more common negative feedback, telling people where they have erred. The negative feedback in theory helps people improve by showing them what they need to “fix” but I’ve found that it more often has the opposite effect: people become resentful, or feel inadequate. Their morale is lowered and their performance fails to improve.
And it was personal and face-to-face – something that is less and less common, but so impactful.
As I left the store, I asked Melissa, half joking, if the bell was wired to “corporate”. She answered, “No, but it should be!” Maybe, but corporate in this case may be onto something quite contrary to (but possibly more effective than) the traditional hierarchical communication (and judgment).
This approach stems from the belief that work is and should be intrinsically meaningful, and doing it well is rewarding in itself. And it may attract and keep employees who are more about delivering great customer service, and less interested in impressing corporate management!
So “three cheers” (or better, “three rings of the bell”) to Melissa and Men’s Wearhouse, for this beautiful lesson! – and for the $50 refund.