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David FullerI recently gave a customer service session to the employees of a store called Great White Toys.

Having seen in the news that Toys ‘R’ Us has filed for bankruptcy protection and that many other retailers are also in trouble as a result of online competition, I was surprised to hear from store owner Cameron Stolz that this year he has the largest inventory in the store’s 25-plus-year history.

However, as I talked with his staff about what they do to provide customer service, the reason for his confidence became evident.

Yes, we gabbed about what makes great customer service, the challenges of offering impeccable service in the toy industry, how they engage their customers when they come into the store and what they do to exceed customer expectations when it comes to service.

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But what struck me most was how these Great White Toys employees felt when they gave incredible customer service.

“Dave,” one staff member said, “when I’m able to get someone talking about the toys or games of their childhood and the positive memories that evokes, I see them smile and it feels so wonderful!”

Another one said: “I really feel special when I see someone come back in the store to buy another piece of a game that I introduced them to because it means that they’re enjoying it as much as I do.”

Who knew that offering exceptional customer service would make the provider of that service feel as good as being on the receiving end?

But what happens when customer service goes wrong?

My friend Paul recently told me about an incident that happened when he went into a business to buy a quad.

“I had the money in my pocket and I was ready to spend $8,000 on a brand new quad for heading out into the bush,” he said. “I knew the model I wanted, I’d done my research and I was just going into the store to buy it.”

But when Paul got to the store, something went wrong. He told the sales person that he wanted to buy the quad. And then the sales person started talking: “You don’t want those tires, you need these ones. You should have this accessory and that accessory.”

Paul said: “No thanks, I’ll just take the quad as it is.”

“But you really need these special tires, you have to have this accessory, nobody buys a quad without this. …”

At which point, Paul walked out.

Perhaps the sales person was just trying to offer good customer service but the store lost an $8,000 sale and a customer. The sales person lost a commission and caused the business to lose face.

Paul did buy a quad – used and online, and he got what he wanted for less money.

So what makes for great customer service?

Customers are coming to your business to get something that creates value for them, including:

  • Speed of service;
  • Quality of product;
  • High level of service;
  • Delivery;
  • Ease of use.

For the customers of Great White Toys, one customer might expect speed of service. They just want to purchase something quickly and leave. The next one might need some very detailed information about a game that no one else can possibly know. When they receive that information, they’ll be happy. Another customer is coming in because something in the store reminds them of happy memories of bygone days.

A magic moment happens when we’re able to deliver the level of service our customers want. Everyone wins.

If we can understand what our customers expect from us, it’s easier to meet those expectations. But we need to communicate effectively.

The sales person who lost the sale when Paul walked out of the store didn’t notice that Paul was getting agitated when they were talking and merely wanted to buy the quad and leave. He didn’t want chit-chat. Great customer service would have been getting Paul to purchase the quad and loading it onto his truck for him.

Customer service is all about making a connection with our customers and building a relationship by giving them what they need in that moment.

If we hire great staff who love to help people, creating joy and solving problems, we’re well on our way to being successful.

Judging from the staff that Great White Toys has, Christmas will be a lot of fun for their customers!

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc.

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