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CEO Blog - The "Crazy Lady" and common courtesy

CEO Blog - The "Crazy Lady" and common courtesy
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It took someone to call me a ‘crazy lady’ to help reinforce one of the basic requirements for retail success.

This was way back when Fone Zone first started. And I mean way back to when I was painting the walls of our first ever store at Pacific Fair in 1995 on the night before we opened. We were applying the chosen colours of royal blue and orange to the trims and woodwork.

Unfortunately – not knowing any better – I had bought gloss paint which takes 12 to 16 hours to dry. We didn’t have 12 to 16 hours until the store opened. 

The next morning, customers began streaming in – and business was immediately booming. ‘Fantastic!’, I thought.

The only problem was that the customers weren’t only walking out with new phones – they were walking out with paint on their hands. And it was enamel-based paint.

Not ideal.

So, I quickly ran to the hardware store and bought turpentine and a bunch of rags. And, on the first day of our new business, I found myself standing outside the store offering to wipe people’s hands. Now, the smell of turpentine on your hands isn’t great. But it was better than paint.

A couple of days later, a customer returned and asked for the “crazy lady” who was wiping everyone’s hands with turps. She wanted to talk about her phone. I told her that I was the “crazy lady” and it flashed into my mind that this woman remembered her customer experience.

Sure, it wasn’t typical, but it showed that we cared about how our customers were treated. We had acknowledged that we had made a mistake and most importantly we had tried to correct it. In my experience, customers forgive mistakes – what they don’t forgive is when you don’t take accountability for mistakes and don’t attempt to rectify a mistake.

Most customers will accept when they walk into a store and it’s busy. But they won’t accept being ignored and not even being acknowledged.

Back on that first day in Fone Zone history, we acknowledged our customers, all right. Sure it was with turpentine and rags…but we acknowledged them.

That was one of the defining moments that the start of our CARE program – let’s take accountability and make amends when we make a mistake.

At times, you don’t have to think too deeply about retail – much of it is simply about common courtesy.

Read more of this story in Think Smart, Run Hard: Lessons in business leadership from Maxine Horne, written by Madonna King. More of Maxine's blogs are available on her website.  

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