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The Three People to Solve the Problem

If you’re in retail, at some point you will have a customer with a problem. And your success will depend on how well you solve that problem in the customer’s eye.

The key is knowing the three people who can solve the problem. Those people are (in no particular order):

  • The person Most Capable of solving the problem
  • The person Closest to the problem
  • The person Least Busy at the time of the problem

The problem for most businesses is the order in which we prioritize that list. From a business owner’s standpoint the ideal priority would be:

  1. Most Capable
  2. Least Busy
  3. Closest

From a customer’s point of view, however, the order would be:

  1. Closest
  2. Least Busy

Notice that I left off “Most Capable”. The customer expects that everyone will be Most Capable. And that’s where the smart retailers succeed. They equip their front line staff with the tools to solve problems so that customers get satisfaction right from the start.

There is nothing more frustrating to a customer who already walked through the door loaded for bear than having to wait around while incompetent fools run off in search of an already over-worked manager to approve a return or refund or some other simple issue.

Conversely, there is nothing so satisfying as a customer than having the first person who greets you being able to fully take care of your problem.

The best thing you can do for your staff is walk them through the basic problems that arise in your business. Show them your thought process and the criteria you use to make decisions. Then empower them to make those same decisions for the customers.

Sure, they might make a mistake or two. Sit down with them when they do and talk through their decision-making to see their process. Use that time to show them (again) how you would handle it. The good ones on your staff will get it quickly. Plus, they’ll feel more ownership for the satisfaction of the customers in the first place.

There will still be a time when the person closest to the situation can’t solve the problem. But the more often they can, the better your customers will feel about you and your business.

And isn’t that the whole point?


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