Customer Service and The Miracle on 34th Street Effect

There’s a scene in the holiday movie classic “Miracle on 34th Street” where Kris Kringle (aka Santa Claus) suggests to a Gimbles customer to go to Macy’s for a particular item. As the official Santa Claus for Gimbles, this was unheard of. His boss overhears and reports him. To his and the management’s surprise, the customers were so moved by a Santa Claus recommending another store at the height of peak Christmas season, that they brought the rest of their business to Gimbles.

The lesson here is simple: when you authentically care for the well-being of your clients, even to the extent of suggesting solutions that make you less money (or maybe even NO money), you make a lasting impression. An impression that in some cases may actually yield your more business.

My Recent Glasses Experience

We all hate the hard sell, don’t we? The used cars salesman approach that pressures you into making a decision too quickly. But think back to the time when a salesperson put you at ease. Where he made it abundantly clear he was more interested in giving you the best advice for your situation, regardless of whether or not it resulted in a sale.

I was recently in the market for a new pair of glasses. I have a funky eye situation where I now have three fields of focal points: one up close for reading, one a couple of feet out for computer work, then “infinity” for distances. I was going to need two prescriptions: progressive bifocals (which is what I’ve normally worn for the past few years) PLUS a single focal length for computer work.

The insurance we have does not cover vision (gotta love self-employment insurance) so this was all going to come out of our pocket—right on the verge of a big trip where financing was tight. So we were coming up with creative ways to get what I needed.

Well, the place where I got my prescription immediately tried to sell me the most expensive lenses. I even asked what is the starting price and the price he gave me seemed kind of high based on my experience.

“Really, it’s that much?” I ask.

“Well, that includes the anti-glare reflection,” he said.

“Well, do you sell it without the anti-glare reflection?” I queried.

“Yes, we do.” Then he quoted me a price for THAT pair that was literally less than HALF of the supposed “starting” price. WTF! Did I NOT just ask this guy what the starting price was? Geeze!

So my wife and I started on this wacky adventure to creatively get me what I really needed at an economical price. Seems like everyone designs their services to make it totally confusing.

Then we were in Costco looking at reading glasses. We were considering getting the strongest pair of reading glasses to use as my “distance” pair (as the reading strength was close of my distance magnification), then getting the bifocals for reading and computer. While we were at the reading glasses station, this nice gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt starting giving us all this detailed info on what strength to get and why. Turns out he works in their optical department.

We explained our situation and the frustration we were having with all the optical providers we encountered. He explained that in this business ,companies have set packages and certain minimums  to hit. We asked what Costco’s pricing was and he said that if all you need is bare bones, lenses start at some relatively low amount.

He continued to give us more tips about the reading glasses, then wished us good luck and headed off. We eventually went back over to their optical department, talked to him some more, and ended up getting THREE pairs of glasses, two for me and one for my wife. We ended up paying just a little bit more than our original budget for two (but way more than our “creative” budget that included getting reading glasses instead of a distance prescription).

Hawaiian shirt guy was authentically trying to help us with the situation we presented. From a chance (dare I say providential) encounter, he made a good sale and we got great glasses and excellent service.

I share this story with you so that you can ask yourself: when you sell your services, are you the Hawaiian Shirt Guy, or are you the “Anti-glare Guy”?