Now that we have a daughter working at Target (“Cool Managers” blog), I’ve learned a bunch about the challenges—headaches!?—of managing a retail store. And here’s what I know:
I would never want to do it.
Keeping the floors clean during a Colorado rainstorm, offering product that matches the market’s fickle desires, restocking inventory day in and day out, putting stuff back where it belongs after “guests” decide not to buy it (like an orphaned hammer hanging from its claw on a brassiere rack!), hiring people who don’t return after their first day, and being forced to scrutinize all customers because some of them will steal from you.
So many moving parts, so intensely people driven. I’ll be honest—it looks very complicated to me. More than ever, I admire those who can succeed in the retail world.
And those who do, I am convinced, live by this principle:
Never Forget Who Pays the Bills
Nothing complicated about that. It’s simply what we teach in Chapter 24 of the Outstanding! book.
And because stories are how we like to teach at QBQ, Inc., let’s look at a picture of what “never forgetting to pay the bills” looks like. This example was emailed to us by Robert, a longtime fan of the QBQ! book:
John, I just received outstanding service at a “big box” retail store.
I had bought an Office Max brand ink cartridge for my printer, but my printer died before I could use it. When I bought a new printer, the ink wasn’t compatible. Since the ink package had not been opened yet, I figured I’d try exchanging it for one that would work in my new printer, even though the ink receipt was long gone.
So I headed out to the store, but you should know that where I live, Office Max and Office Depot are only one block apart.
I drove toward Office Max (the store I needed) but pulled into the Office Depot parking lot. Totally unaware of my mistake, I walked into Office Depot with an Office Max ink cartridge. At the customer service desk, I told two gents that I’d bought a new printer and asked if I could exchange my ink. It turns out the fellas were the store manager and the assistant manager. The latter said, “No problem, except that ink is from Office Max and you’re in Office Depot.”
I looked down at the cartridge and realized I’d probably be the butt of a “stupid customer” joke or two in the break room later that day!
So I replied, “Oh, man, I pulled into the wrong parking lot! I’m so sorry!” But the store manager, Paul, responded with a smile, “Go grab the ink you need, sir, and we’ll exchange it anyway—as long as you never pull into that other parking lot again!”
I am sure both chains spend millions on advertising each year, but for only $17.99, Office Depot gained a “customer for life.”
I’m grateful to Paul for not making me feel stupid. I’m pretty sure he asked a “QBQ” and not an Incorrect Question (IQ). His IQ might have been, “Why are customers so dumb?” But it seems he asked the QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, “What can I do right now to turn this Office Max customer into an Office Depot customer forever?”
Robert, thanks for sharing your story!
So, is running a retail business complicated? You bet. Are the principles required to succeed complicated? Nope. All it takes is this:
Never forget who pays the bills.
For comment below:
Did Paul do the right thing? What could he have done instead? Do you believe “customer service” is getting better or worse? We’d love to hear from you!
*All winners must live in the United States or Canada.