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Finding What You Need: Check Aisle Two

September 28, 2022 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

Your customer asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. Do you fake it til you make it? Do you talk your way around the request without actually finding a resolution? Do you dismiss them to a different department or representative? Or do you admit that you don’t know, use your resources to find the most accurate explanation, and follow up with the customer as soon as your hunt for information is over? 

In my personal life I will typically fake it til I make it. I don’t like asking for help, or admitting defeat. I would rather try and fail three times than accept there is something I don’t know how to do. I see these experiences as a learning opportunity. They harm no one and cost nothing but my own time. I stick to my stubbornness while wearing my “Independant Woman” hat, but when dealing with customers I will always chose the hunt and gather method for finding solutions. 

Yesterday was shopping day. My schedule has been a bit hectic lately, and I’ll admit I am more scatterbrained than normal so I made sure I had my list and checked it twice. Milk, eggs, cheese, salad fixin’s and pizza sauce. 

All my items were checked off the list, except one. I have bought pizza sauce from my local grocery store at least monthly for the last two years. I know exactly where it is and what brand I want to buy. I walked up and down every dry goods aisle three times. The elusive sauce had officially disappeared. I finally gave in and asked a set of employees if they could guide me to the correct area. They told me to ask someone else. I continued my pursuit and came across a guy in green stocking shelves. Surely he will know where every item is. He took me the long way around, up and down, back and forth all the way to aisle two. Still no sauce. He informs me it should be “right here”. It very clearly was not. I am now frustrated. Running late and about to use pasta sauce for pizza night. I came across another employee and figured what’s the harm in giving the expedition one more chance to be successful. 

Joey didn’t know where the sauce was. But he didn’t give up there. We went to the aisle directory and he found it should be in aisle two. I have been through aisle two so often in the previous twenty minutes that one could assume I really have a strong affection for canned goods and pasta. Together we ventured back as directed. 

By this point I am fed up. I call it quits about half way down the aisle and tell the nice boy not to worry about it. Remembering that I needed something from the freezer section I continued walking until I approached the end of the aisle. As I glance to my right I see what I have been looking for all along. The coveted pizza sauce was in aisle two this whole time. 

I grabbed my two cans and took off for the frozen potatoes. As I’m standing tippy toed on the bottom shelf trying to reach the french fries that are on the top shelf and pushed way back, Joey comes up from the side. He gets the fries down for me and informs me he has found the sauce. 

Joey didn’t give up. Joey made an unsaid promise to find the sauce and did not abandon his mission. Joey is the hero – even if I beat him to it. 

Joey went from zero to hero unintentionally. How do we create a team of “Joey’s” that are committed to finding solutions rather than leaving questions unanswered?

    • Provide the Necessary Ingredients: Create reference documents and training material. Make the information available and easily accessible. Update as necessary due to process or system changes. 
    • Teach Them to Fish: Training, training, training! Take the time to ensure the team members “get it”. Make sure the teams not only know the information exists, but where to find it in the event they need a refresher. Questions are inevitable but point them back to the resources to promote autonomy and independence. 
    • Answer Questions With a Question: Not really, and not all of the time. But when an employee or teammate comes to you with a problem, give them the opportunity to uncover the answer. Ask what solutions they have thought of and help them fully develop the rest of the path forward.

As leaders, trainers, or teammates creating a culture of helpers will make your customers feel as if their needs matter and can be attended to quickly and sufficiently. 

Be a Joey. And find the dang sauce.

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