During a recent family dinner, the conversation turned toward previous family meals that my mom had prepared and some of the questionable dishes she had placed on the table. After numerous laughs and her attempt to explain herself for those small disasters, she specifically asked if any of us had served creamed chipped beef on toast to our families. I believe the answer was a unanimous: “Why would we?”
She went on to tell us that the dish was one of her favorite meals because it reminded her of family times together when she was a child, and it was often all they could afford. The problem was she couldn’t find the very convenient frozen version in the grocery store. More to the point, she couldn’t find the Stouffer’s brand that she enjoyed and was accustomed to serving.
Several days later, I was in the store searching for Stouffer’s creamed chipped beef because I knew how pleased my mom would be if I could find it for her. She was right—it’s nowhere to be found (for obvious reasons in my opinion!). However, seeing that the store had a variety of other Stouffer’s frozen products, I thought I’d take a shot and see if the store could order the product for me.
After a short conversation with the manager, he said he would be pleased to order it if I could purchase a case—thankfully it’s only 12 packages—to which I gladly agreed. The next shipment would arrive the following Monday, and the manager said he’d hold it in my name. Quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine anyone else wanting to claim it, but I showed up the following Monday and there it was, just what I ordered: 12 glorious boxes of the frozen delight my mother loves.
After paying, I made a quick visit to the store manager to say thanks and to let him know how much my mom would appreciate receiving the special order. He said he was happy to do it and it was just part of what they do to keep customers coming back. Was it part of his job description? Maybe, but it surely meant I’d be back.
As for my mom, she couldn’t believe her eyes (nor could I when I realized her freezer could only fit seven boxes) and thanked me over and over. Several days later, she called to say thanks again and told me it tasted just like she had imagined.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about creamed chipped beef on toast in a promotional products industry magazine. While it may not seem obvious at first, there are a number of correlations to our industry: the desire for brand names, the importance of customer service and the common courtesy of a thank you.
We all recognize the Stouffer’s brand, and it’s apparent that nothing else would do in this case. Wanting a particular brand name is certainly not an uncommon request among end users. They’ve seen it, used it, like it and want it. It’s the power of brands.
Although you may see the manager’s role in my story as just part of his job, my request did require him to go a step farther, and he was happy to do it to ensure my satisfaction and that I’d return. Guess what? It worked.
Now for the part that seems like such a simple, but grossly neglected, part of the equation: Simply saying “thank you.” These are two words that can make all the difference. The small amount of time it took for me to thank the manager made all the difference in my ability to seek his assistance again and come away feeling confident he’ll be happy to help in the future.
He was actually surprised when I approached him and simply said: “Thanks for the creamed chipped beef.” Although he shrugged it off as part of his job, he also said: “Don’t hesitate to ask me again if you ever need anything.” We now have started a relationship, and you can bet I’ll turn to him again.
My experience is no different when reps or suppliers receive a call asking for a sample, spec or something slightly out of the norm. A customer is asking for something in order to satisfy a request from a client, a product they think you can sell or just an item for their own personal use. Whatever the circumstances, our clients are asking us to do something for them. If it can be done, we’ll do it. And when we do, it’s great to hear that “thank you” from our customers.
By the way, my mom called and asked us over for dinner the other night. My response was: “Thank you for asking, but we’re busy that night.” Creamed chipped beef over toast with peas? Thank you, but no! Let us know when you’re available to go out.
Bob Black is CEO for multi-line rep company The Identity Group, Inc. in Colleyville, Texas. He has been named one of PPB’s Best Multi-Line Reps for 2012.