In the last post we talked about the little things businesses can do — things that take less than five minutes (sometimes even less than a minute) — which solidify their relationship with the customer. Essentially, they take that short amount of time to make the customer feel like a person not a potential sale.

If this were the old “Highlights for Children” magazine, last time we focused on Gallant — Zingerman’s — who took just a few minutes to accommodate me even though the shop wasn’t technically open yet. Zingerman’s practically made a fan for life.

Now let’s talk about Goofus.

I’ve got a lot of stories about Best Buy and heard many more. I think as many as one of them might be about some exemplary behavior they might have displayed. The rest are practically a handbook on how not to treat your customers. Remember, customer service is the company equivalent of networking. In Best Buy’s case, they seem to be taking their plays from the “Limited Networker Field Guide“.

This particular story starts about ten minutes after my experience with Zingerman’s Bakehouse and Creamery. With my goodies sitting next to me in the front seat, I headed up the road to Best Buy to pick up some sort of electronic widget I needed at the time.

I pulled into the parking lot. The sun was out, but in February, Michigan residents know that just means that you can see your breath more clearly in the bitingly cold air. It was still ten minutes until the doors opened, so I just made myself comfortable and waited patiently. I could see at least eight or ten other customers doing the same thing.

A few minutes later, an older model car pulled up into the handicapped spot several rows over. The engine stopped and an elderly gentleman stepped out. I’m guessing he was in his eighties and moved with a little bit of a limp. He started his slow path up to the doors. Upon arriving he seemed surprised to discover that the doors wouldn’t open. By this time I was about to get out of my car, but I did make a point to glance down at the clock. 9:57 — three minutes until opening.

Standing right inside the door, I could clearly see an employee just watching this poor guy while he knocked on the door. The doors didn’t open and the man finally turned and made his frigid path back to his car and left…

… and so did about half of the people who had been waiting.

Now, I’m sure this particular employee just didn’t have the authority to open the doors before the actual chime of the clock — if at all. Maybe he had to wait for the manager — certainly a possibility. Still, for want of giving that employee just that small amount of responsibility or even having a policy of opening the doors five minutes before official opening time — the kind of policy that treats the customer as if they were a person who might get cold — for lack of that, Best Buy probably lost at least a few sales that morning.

They may even have lost some customers for life.

I think the lesson we have to take from these two examples is to watch out for those little five-minute tasks we can do to show we care for the members of our network. If we take the Best Buy path, we focus only on what adds to our bottom line. We only do the tasks for which we’ll be paid. For every good we do, we expect one to be returned to us.

And no one is likely to want to connect with us or find ways to help us succeed.

Take the Zingerman’s approach, though — look for ways we can be aggressively helpful. Give assistance, advice, and referrals. Connect with the person and not the position or the profession. Then.

Then we will have a network which will be actively looking for ways to propel us to our own success.

Photo by Mike Souza