Canadian customer care: Stupendous or simply sufficient?

December 3, 2018

By Todd Wasylyshyn

Photos © www.bigstockphoto.com[1]
Photos © www.bigstockphoto.com

After working the Atlanta Jewelry Show in August, I headed to Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to return home. With some time to spare, I wandered into an electronics store. As I was browsing the latest headphones and Bluetooth speakers, Darnell greeted me. He had a warm smile and a sincere, friendly approach.

Within two minutes, he knew where I called home, what I was doing in Atlanta, and my name, and he made me feel like meeting me was a big deal for him. I found myself telling him how much I appreciated the famous Southern hospitality I had enjoyed over the previous few days. From the hotel staff who suffered with us as we impatiently awaited the arrival of a lost piece of luggage to the comical hostess at the restaurant Pittypat’s Porch who yelled at us, “Come on downstairs!” from the reception area, then laughed her face off at my last name, we ran into one lovable character after another.

A few hours later, I was in the Toronto airport being helped by nice and polite Canadians who served me with relative equanimity. Back home in Vancouver, service was much the same. None of the Canadian servers and clerks learned my name or shook my hand, and not a single one seemed to have as much joy in life as Darnell. This is not to say there are no good examples of outstanding customer service in Canada, but the contrast of this trip was a wake-up call for me.

The nicest people in the world
What’s with us Canadians? Our reputation for courtesy and peacefulness is well founded. Maybe when we travel with a Canadian flag on our backpack, it’s actually a signal for our hosts to short-change us because we’re too nice to complain. I’m a proud Canadian and I’m extremely thankful my family and I get to live in such an affluent, beautiful, and peace-loving country. However, I do think we put too much stock in our reputation. I’d like to nicely, humbly, and with all due self-deprecation admit we can do better.

One of the biggest myths among young people looking for work is it’s important to be courteous and nice to people. If you’ve advertised for sales staff, you’ve seen it on resumes and heard it in job interviews. “I like people,” candidates might say, or maybe, “I’m a people person,” “I enjoy serving people,” or, “People say I’m pleasant to be around.” Well, I hope so! If you’re an antisocial, introverted, mean-spirited grump, your odds of working for me are pretty darn slim!

Someone who gushes about how nice and friendly he/she is should be tested. Here’s an idea: tell that bright and chipper whipper-snapper, “Well, I’m having a really bad day. I’m not sure I want to hire anybody, let alone you, and I don’t want to be here.” Fold your arms, turn your head, give an exasperated huff, and see how each person responds. If someone turns and runs, move on to the next interviewee. If your candidate says, “Well sunshine, just turn that frown right upside down and be happy like me,” then say, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

If a person can empathize with you, hear the story of what made your fictitious day so bad (you could have a lot of fun with that one), and from the depths of his/her heart find a way to encourage you, you could have yourself a prospect. If someone makes you smile, he/she might just make your shortlist. If someone makes you laugh, consider making an offer.

Empathy and a natural ability to make people smile are both important traits in a salesperson.[2]
Empathy and a natural ability to make people smile are both important traits in a salesperson.

You gotta be sincere
“Sincerity. You can’t fake it and you can’t hide it.”
~Unkown

I had no need for yet another set of headphones when I walked into that electronics shop in Atlanta, but I truly wished I’d needed to buy something so I could hang out with my new friend Darnell a little longer. Talk about a whirlwind bromance! When consumers like you, and you prove you care about them by word and actions, they will go out of their way to give you their business. A truly sincere, self-fulfilled, confident person brings a lot of value to the relationships you hope to forge with clients. That’s someone you can work with. I’m pretty sure I can teach anyone product knowledge, but it’s beyond my capability to coach a self-loathing conspiracy theorist into becoming a hug-worthy, trusted advisor.

I’ve had my ups and downs, successes, and failures in this business, but here’s an example where I managed to get it right, and it yielded some shocking results. After successfully negotiating a difficult jewellery insurance claim with a client, we formed enough of a bond that she came to rely on me as her go-to jeweller. When her son was getting serious with his girlfriend, she told him, “Go see Todd.” He didn’t. He bought the ring elsewhere, and the engagement subsequently broke off. Only then did he finally come to see me. He needed advice on what was fair when the jeweller refused to give him a refund. I coached him through the process, and he worked out a satisfactory resolution.

Later, he found a new love. Aha! This time, he came to me for the ring—but don’t get too excited, because I didn’t make the sale. His new partner had her eye on a particularly unique designer creation tried on at yet another jeweller. With his best interest in mind, I ultimately encouraged him to buy that design from the other jeweller.

Genuinely looking after your clients' interests can help you earn their trust.[3]
Genuinely looking after your clients’ interests can help you earn their trust.

I know! Denied twice by the same red-hot referral prospect! Yet, there were good reasons to turn down the opportunity, not the least of which was the security liability the avant-garde design presented. Fast forward a year or two, and he brought one and then another of his friends to me for engagement rings that sold for $11,000 and $17,000. He didn’t bring them to the first or the second jeweller, but to me. I showed my concern for his mom by helping her through a troubling insurance claim, I helped him reconcile with another jeweller, and I unselfishly helped him make an engagement ring purchase that thrilled his new bride. He told two friends and they told two friends, and so on and so on.

When you genuinely care for your clients’ best interests, you may not always have the merchandise or the skill to deliver what they want, but you’ll earn something more valuable: their trust. They’ll want to give you their business and will do everything in their power to give you lots of it. It’s then up to you to maintain a business that caters to as many of their needs as possible.

A positive attitude can go a long way in building customer relationships.[4]
A positive attitude can go a long way in building customer relationships.

Working your magic
So, what do you do with this information? Are you going to go out of your way to send a client to a competitor, just so you can show them how much you love them? I wouldn’t recommend it. Should you fire your staff for having a bad day or two? That might be a bit rash. How about starting that loving attitude right from the top of your organization?

David R. Lindsey from Purdy’s Jewellery based in Bobcaygeon, Ont., is a huge fan of Disney. He lives for his family’s next pilgrimage down the East Coast to Walt Disney World. They cherish the aforementioned Southern hospitality at their favourite stops in the Carolinas and Georgia. Just a week after I returned from Atlanta, I found myself at the Canadian Jewellery Group (CJG) buying show in Toronto, learning about how Dave tries to incorporate some of Walt Disney’s guiding principles to make his and his wife Marylynn’s store the “happiest place in Ontario.”

“Attitude is always number one,” he tells me. “If you don’t have the right attitude, you won’t make the sale.”

For Purdy’s, it’s more than a cliché to “go the extra mile” or to “create memories;” it’s the top priority. Before focusing on product, merchandising, advertising, accounting, hiring, decoration, or administration, Dave and his team go out of their way to create a winning experience for their clients. When asked if having a pro-client attitude opens the door to consumers taking advantage of his better nature, Dave replied, “Giving happiness is worth the risk.”

For myself, as someone who often gets caught up in the myriad challenges of helping run a business, it was good to be reminded inventory management, quality control, job descriptions, accounting, and product selections aren’t the only proficiencies needed for success. Retail or wholesale, nothing happens in our world unless we can get the product the final few inches from our inventory to our clients’ hands. Customers who are satisfied enough to give you some of their money is the end goal. Raving fans who know how much you love them and do everything in their power to give you lots of their money is what leads to success at the highest level.

When asked for one thing or another, my high school drama teacher Ken Agrell-Smith often smiled broadly and proclaimed, “Your wish is my passion.” He was indeed a passionate teacher who got exemplary results from his scholarship-winning students. I challenge you to use the phrase, “Your wish is my passion,” five times this week. I hope you’ll end up using it a hundred times. Then, passionately pursue a Disney-worthy experience for your clients.

[5]Todd Wasylyshyn stumbled into the jewellery world while completing an arts degree at the University of Alberta in 1987, and still possesses the very first loonie he made in the industry. Having worked retail and been an owner, traveller, gemmologist, and writer, Wasylyshyn has seen the vast jewellery business from many angles, and is always on the lookout for new trends. Currently, he is general manager of Keith Jack of North Vancouver. He can be reached via e-mail at toddwaz@gmail.com.

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/bigstock-Woman-talking-to-a-salesperson-66834169.jpg
  2. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/bigstock-171778787.jpg
  3. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/bigstock-223047475.jpg
  4. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/bigstock-Female-Jewelry-Worker-Behind-W-264369253.jpg
  5. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/headshot.jpg

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