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What Does Great Performance Look Like - the
Night Before Christmas

by Darlene Pineda


Picture this: It's the Friday night before Christmas in a large bookstore. The lines at the register are consistently 50 to 60 people deep, and have been all day. The staff is tired, and the managers have been on a mandatory six-day workweek since November. All eight registers have been going nonstop for hours, when suddenly, at around 8 PM, the registers crash. Not freeze, not need rebooting, but completely shut down. All of them. At the same time! With 60 people in line! Time to panic? Ah, there's where great performance comes in.

Rebecca is the manager there, and she jumps into the emerging chaos. Quickly one supervisor is on the phone paging the IT department, and Rebecca has a basket of candy and is moving down the restless line of customers, explaining what is happening, giving each person some candy, and assuring them that a solution will be found shortly. No one leaves the line.

Ten minutes later the IT department is trying to get the registers working again, and Rebecca is walking down the line with coffee, explaining to each customer how very sorry we are, what options they have (leaving their info and us shipping the items later, putting items on hold, etc.), and offering them coffee. 20 more people have joined the line. No one leaves the line.

Twenty minutes. IT is frantically bringing the computers back up, and Rebecca goes back down the line, this time with bottles of water and $5.00 gift certificates, good anytime, apologizing and letting the customers know we expect to be back online in the next 5 to 10 minutes. Four people leave the line - leaving their info with us so we can mail their purchases (free of charge) to them the next day.

Thirty minutes - the registers are finally back up. The line stretches to the back of the store with over 100 people waiting. Rebecca makes an announcement over the paging system, and a cheer goes up through the store! Almost every employee is at the registers, ringing, bagging, and Rebecca is still going up the line, thanking everyone for hanging in there.

Registers were down for half an hour, on one of the busiest days of the year, and we still beat budget by over 20%. Why? Because Rebecca demonstrated all the qualities we look for - honest, sincere, friendly, knowledgeable, and most importantly - she brought it all together into professionally handling a daunting situation with grace. We didn't lose a single customer, and she got a letter from the CEO thanking her. The supervisors who were working that night all chipped in to treat her to dinner. I also received about 10 phone calls and 3 letters from customers complimenting her behavior.

Now that's what great performance looks like!

So what do your customers and fellow employees say about you?


The Author


Darlene Pineda is a contributing editor of The CEO Refresher, Vice President Operations at High Performance Retail and co-editor of 1001 Ways to WOW Your Customers!

Many more articles in High Performance Retail in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2003 by Darlene Pineda. All rights reserved.

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