Here's a story about a savvy marketing women and how she fulfilled a customer need by creative thinking and going the extra mile.
Background: For a marketing campaign, I wanted to offer a gift card toward a cup of coffee to a business networking group's membership. I needed 150 gift cards, each worth two dollars. First I called Starbucks and was rather snottily told that they would not do gift cards for less than five dollars each. (I know, you need that much in there!) Next I called Border's and was assured that yes, they could do the two dollar gift cards but they refused to get them started over the phone (would not take a credit card for them by phone) and that I had to show up in person and stand there while they processed 150 two dollar gift cards. Given that, I canceled an appointment and drove over to stand in line, only to be told when I got to the head of the line that “oh, sorry, I was so wrong, we can only do gift cards for five dollars or more.” What? OK, so much for the training of Border's employees. Next stop, McDonald's. Guess what? They ALSO can only do five dollars. But at least the manager there offered their printed “McDonald dollars” gift books that I could tear apart and use. The only problem was that she had only $85 worth of these in the entire store, I needed $300. I took what she had and left, daunted at the prospect of stopping by another 2 or 3 McDonald's to find the rest.
The real deal: Hardee's is not far down the street so I thought it was worth a stop to ask there. Jan Sweet, the manager, was very welcoming and said she could do the two dollar gift cards, even though she had to ring them up one at a time. She was shocked to find out that Hardee's computers were like everyone else's, programmed to accept only five dollars or more. “This is crazy,” she says, frowning. “We have people come in here all the time who need a few dollars for sports teams and teachers.” Determined, she called both her district manager and her marketing person only to hear that their computers did not serve her need.
Queen of Marketing struts her stuff: Jan was absolutely determined to make her customer (me) happy AND quickly realized I was sending 150 people her way, who would more than likely purchase more than the two dollars worth of coffee I was gifting them with. She rooted in the safe for “Hardee dollars” only to find that they were out. She actually offered to stay late that evening and print up a special coupon just for me, pointing out that the only downside would be that the giftees would then have to come to her store – she couldn't make and sell a special coupon that would be good at any Hardee's. It wasn't a perfect solution for me, but it WAS a solution. I agreed to it. Giving me something free to drink, she disappeared into her office while I waited. Suddenly, she re-appeared with some gift coupons in her hand left over from another in-store promotion. They were for an entire Hardee's breakfast (about $4.00 in value). Waving them at me, she offered to sell them to me for $2.50 each, and she had enough to fulfill all I needed. Deal done!
The smarts: Jan is one smart manager. She took care of an urgent need from her customer (I needed the things the next morning), she upsold me, she offered me a great value allowing me to look even better to my giftees, and she made sure I knew that she'd be glad to always come up with something special and give me a good deal if I ever needed something in the future. A good business relationship was made! I will talk her up to everyone I know as one of the rare managers who is a small cog in a huge machine and who actually provides true customer service. She met the need. Let's all bow to Queen Jan. And Starbucks and Borders could take a lesson!