Can I Help You?

Yoda's Playlist
If given the choice, I prefer to buy online 99% of the time. No, make that 99.8% of the time.

And it’s not that I don’t like shopping; it’s just that my favorite part of shopping is when we’re all done… when we’re pulling into the driveway… or when I’m relaxed in the serenity of my own home and I’m using the stuff I just bought.

But alas, I occasionally find myself in a Big Box; an activity that I often later regret.

So it was that I planned to buy some new earbuds for an MP3, and found myself in a national electronics superstore. I hadn’t planned to be there… it was all rather impulsive. In fact, until that moment I hadn’t shopped there since forever.

What I had planned to do was jump online and order them from somewhere as soon as I got home. And then it hit me…

As my eyes saw the Big Box sign, I thought about the 169,000 earbud choices, and the fact that I’ve never even heard of 168,993 of them. Of the remaining 7 brands, there are 83 models and I don’t know jack about the specs.

“Gee, I could run in there quick and get some quality, expert advice,” I thought. (Like I said, I hadn’t been there in years!)

As I stood in the aisle, there were earbuds… lots of earbuds. “Can I help you?” a young sales associate asked. “Yes,” I said, picking up two different brands. “Can you tell me the difference between these two models?”

He looked at each and then at the display, and replied, “Well, this one is $39.99, and that one is $79.99.”

“Can you tell me what the other differences are?” He looked hard at the back of the packages and said, “Naw, they’re all pretty much the same.” Now understand, I was looking at a large selection, ranging in price from $9.99 to $349.99. In the end, I bought a pair of Sony‘s Fontopia earbuds for around $15. While I was prepared to spend considerably more, I just didn’t feel comfortable paying a premium for an unknown benefit.

Now, I don’t blame this young man; he obviously had not been given the consideration of even the most rudimentary training. And I’m not going to name the company here and start a rant; I’m just not into that.

On the other hand, I don’t understand management that doesn’t make equipping the team a priority. Even if it is an entry level or transitory position, valuable skills and principles can be sown into our employees; skills and principles that begin to build a foundation for their future success. Who knows where that may lead?

Just think how much more positive it would have been to have heard this response instead: “I’m sorry, I have to apologize… I’m brand new here and just getting started. Let me go get Dave or Mary… they know everything about each of these, and will make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for!”


The Big Box missed at least three opportunities that afternoon:

First, while I am quite pleased with the product that I bought, I would have been more than willing to consider an upgrade.

Second, every interaction in business is a marketing opportunity; a chance to shine and make your customer feel like a million bucks. And in a social media world, your performance here, positively or negatively, will be magnified substantially.

Third and most importantly, as I walked out the front door and into the parking lot toward my car, their chance to positively coach one of the team had come and gone.


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