Grant McCracken says there’s a revolution coming.
In his recent post on the HBR blog, he describes how he was recently transformed from “Major Grumpy-Pants” to a satisfied customer at his local Whole Foods. It wasn’t a happenstance encounter with one gregarious grocer; it was three, consistently upbeat interactions with genuinely engaging people that “charmed and disarmed.”
McCracken’s point is that retailers (and I would argue, businesses of every kind) must hire and support people like this in order to win in the 21st century.
In a recent episode of the popular CBS series Undercover Boss, the CEO of global convenience store behemoth 7-Eleven, Joe DePinto, recently learned the same lesson. He went undercover to see why his highest-performing location sells more coffee than any other in the world. What did he find?
McCracken describes Dolores well:
Dolores is no mere greeter. She’s there to make the coffee flow. And after 18 years here, she knows a lot of people by name. And if she doesn’t know your name, she is prepared to go with an endearment. (And who doesn’t want to be called “hon”?) Most astonishingly, she punches people. And she’s not asking for permission either. “I gotta hit ya,” we hear her say, “You know I gotta hit ya.”
Hitting customers. Now there’s a big idea.
I believe Dolores shows us that our conventional instincts are wrong. We offer the customer a glassy, scripted welcome. We craft our greetings as if the staff person were a butler, all frosty detachment and sangfroid. “Good afternoon, sir, may I help you find something?” There are options here. In some cases, it’s actually okay to hit the customer.
Dolores was a happy accident for 7-Eleven. She contributes to outstanding sales performance against five continents of store locations. Imagine what could happen if just 10% of employees at the customer level of your organization were recruited specifically to be Dolores. 20%? 90%? Furthermore, imagine if you compensated the Dolores’ of your organization for the real value they represent.
After all, it would be a shame if she decided to work for the convenience store across the street…