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The Traveling Retailer's Tip #24: Rules, Guidelines, Policies, And Beliefs

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By Gordon Hecht


I hope you have as much fun reading these posts as I have writing them. I try to write one each week, but got a little behind-the reason is that me and my everlovin’ chalked up Anniversary #25 and we headed to New York City for a weekend of exhausting fun!

People say that New York is expensive-it’s only true if you think that French Toast breakfast should cost less than $65 for two people, or that a pair of cocktails for $39+ tip is a lot of dough. The city is home to 8 million people and 9 public restrooms, which brings us to today’s topic-Customer Service. Every organization needs some set of GUIDELINES to operate cohesively. These are general principles, normally set by the organizer or owner. You’ll see that those guidelines are based on the BELIEF system of those forming the organization. James Cash Penney believed in the Golden Rule, and ran his first store based on “do unto others…” principles. Richard W. Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck (who we like to call “Curt”) believed in Satisfaction Guaranteed and, in the early days, no customer was ever disappointed.

As Organizations grow, sometimes those original BELIEFS that formed their CULTURE got diluted or misdirected. As a result POLICIES went into effect, and written RULES were trained and enforced (ever hear of the POLICY POLICE!). Rules were meant to be followed, obeyed, and not crossed. Soon the warm and fuzzy goodwill that James Cash, Richard W and Alvah Curt built their business on became washed away.

New York City has a certain VIBE to it. I think it is because they crammed 8 million people into a small island and some outlying boroughs, and then add 608,000 commuters daily, as many people as live in Baltimore, MD. With this mass of humanity, New Yorkers develop an ability to size up people and situations quickly; one might say, “in a New York Minute.” This came to life for me when my bride and I shopped in a little vintage clothing store on the Lower East Side. We spent about 30 minutes looking at treasures from the 1950s to present, all designer labels and in “like new” condition. I noticed a sign on the door-and another inside the building “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS”. This is quite a common sight in the big city! We paid for our selections, and then I got a call-it was from Nature!

I figured I’d give it a shot and asked the cashier where the closest PUBLIC RESTROOM was. She very politely said, “We have a private room for staff only, but I’ll let you use it”. The RULES were shattered, the POLICY ignored, and crumbled to simple GUIDELINES. All in the name of good customer service.

I saw this repeated a few more times last weekend. I stepped into a self-service coffee shop early Sunday Morning. The place was fairly empty at 7 am. It normally takes me two cups of java to get going in the morning, so I like the idea of serving myself. Taped to each of the four coffee urns was a sign “NO FREE REFILLS”. Policy is policy, and who am I to argue! I grabbed the largest paper cup they had, filled it and stepped to the register to pay for that and the two bananas ($1.00 each) that I selected. I knew that the 20 ounce cup I got was not going to do it for me-so I asked the clerk at the register if I could pay for a refill now. He quickly replied-“It’s on the house!” Again, policy smashed resulting in good customer service. We saw similar actions at specialty restaurant where we told the waiter we were FIRST TIMERS and he responded “Welcome Home” and a jazz club where they asked if we were returning guests, and when we told them it was our first visit we were rewarded with ring side seats.

Whether your RETAIL EMPIRE consists of one location or dozens, I know that you need to have documented RULES-and an ACTION PLAN for customer and employee interactions. It is so much easier to ignore a situation and say NO than to assess the environment and say YES. As long as it is ETHICAL and LEGAL, saying YES may mean exchanging a pillow because it was uncomfortable, or delivering outside your normal area or time frame. It may mean moving an existing mattress to the basement for a customer or completing a service call just to plug a power base into the outlet behind the bed.

Give your team the POWER to say YES, or at the least I’LL CHECK when it comes to creating or saving a SALE. Take care of the people who travel to your store (start with clean, well-stocked restrooms and end with umbrellas at the door to walk them to their cars) and your website. Stick to GUIDELINES and BELIEFS and become famous for GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Gordon Hecht is a Growth and Development Manager for National Bedding Company’s America’s Mattress stores, nearly 400 locally owned and operated bedding stores across the country selling Serta-branded and America’s Mattress-branded mattresses. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver.

He has been recognized for outstanding sales and management achievement with several organizations including Ashley Furniture HomeStores, Drexel-Heritage, RB Furniture, Reliable Stores, and Sofa Express. He has served as Store Manager, Multi-unit manager and National Director of Sales. With his first-hand knowledge of our industry’s front line, Gordon has devoted his career to guiding others to exceed their goals.

Joining National Bedding Company in 2014, as part of the Serta Retail Concepts Group With over 400 stores, America’s Mattress stores is one of the fastest growing bedding retailers in the country.

Co-author of the “Better Bedding Selling Tips” featured on Furniture World Online, Gordon has been a frequent contributor to company newsletters, and contributing writer for industry magazines.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht

Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht