Have you ever seen Miracle on 34th Street? I loved that movie as a kid, probably because Matilda got to have Santa Claus as her babysitter. As a grown-up, however, I’ve come to appreciate a different aspect of the film. In case you haven’t dusted it off and popped it into your VCR in the past few years, here’s a quick recap:
Kris Kringle — the real one! — has been recruited by Cole’s Department Store to be their Santa Claus. He’s hired to do one simple job: be the jolly old fellow who asks kids what they want for Christmas… then tells their parents to buy those gifts from Cole’s. But Santa goes rogue. He starts informing parents where they can find the toys at the best price, even if it’s not at their store. He almost gets fired for this rebellious act until the department store is recognized for its “revolutionary policy” of putting the customer first. One of those customers even approaches the store’s General Manager to say, “Tell your Santa Claus that he made a Cole’s shopper out of me.”
Of course, it’s not ideal for retail sales associates to recommend purchasing a product from a competitor. But that’s not the point. When the people on the sales floor understand the needs of the consumer and have the knowledge to help them, they can provide great customer service — the kind of customer service that makes a consumer happy and keeps them coming back. The kind of customer service that Santa himself provided — that created store loyalists and increased sales. Who knew Santa was so good at marketing?
I recently experienced this type of service while upgrading the windows in my home. I had already met with three contractors for a bid and my next appointment was with Mike from Lowe’s. Like the other contractors, Mike took measurements. Like the other contractors, he handed me a piece of paper with a quote. But then he did something different. He sat down with me to discuss my options.
And boy did he know what he was talking about. Not only did Mike come prepared with a book devoted to the art and science of windows, he also explained the good, better, and best options; which ones came with a lifetime warranty, an energy star rating, foam sealing, etc. Despite not being the lowest price — by over $800 — I ended up signing a contract with Lowe’s. Like other consumers, I value price, but I also value the information people like Mike can provide. His knowledge and expertise equate to a recommendation that I can trust, something the other contractors just didn’t provide.
I’ve been back to Lowe’s several times now, looking for my friend Mike to ask him about the insulation in my crawl space, upgrading my HVAC system, even about landscaping. Because he had the education necessary to help me make an informed decision, he gave me the confidence I needed to buy. And he made a Lowe’s loyalist out of me.
Lowe’s should be proud. They clearly empowered Mike with the right product, brand, and category information necessary to answer my questions, even questions about windows Lowe’s doesn’t sell. Mike knew his stuff, made the sale, and is now my go-to guy for all future home projects. Educating retail associates isn’t just about giving them the knowledge to make the sale, it’s about providing good customer service, like Mike — and Santa.