“How Being Gumby Can Transform Your Service Culture”
Have you ever shopped at the Container Store? If you’re working in customer service, and you want an enlightening (and thought-provoking) benchmark for your company, I urge you to get out and visit a Container Store this weekend.
The Container Store is a leading retail chain specializing in home organization products, such as wire shelving, plastic shower totes, shoe bags, food packaging, knife and peg racks, and bins.
Over the past four years the company has expanded throughout the United States , maintained infinitesimal turnover that is unheard of in the retail industry, and ranked 1st or 2nd on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.
How do they do it?
Every Container Store employee is strategically trained to think flexibly to solve customers’ organization problems. And the company does this with an air of excitement by using the 1950’s Gumby clay-figure TV star.
“Being Gumby”—bending over backward to please customers (and co-workers)—is highly prized at the Container Store. (So is training—Container Store employees average 162 hours a year!)
Get this…I read in Fortune Magazine that at a Container Store in Dallas, there’s an IT manager, who is also a part-time yoga instructor who teaches free weekly yoga classes to her staff. Her colleagues have responded enthusiastically since the classes began two years ago; 25% now join in the bending and stretching. “It’s a good mental practice that can be applied to physical purposes,” says Betty Murray, the IT Manager/Yoga Instructor.
Being Gumby is about doing whatever needs to be done to serve a customer, help a co-worker, or complete a task. It’s about not getting “bent out of shape” when a customer makes a request of you that you’d rather not do. And it’s also about bouncing back quickly after having a tough encounter with a challenging customer.
The Container Store constantly reinforces the Gumby culture by having a 6 foot tall wooden Gumby in the lobby at the company’s headquarters and giving away the annual Gumby award to the employee who exemplifies flexibility.
Another Great Tip from the Container Store: Man in the Desert
Serve Your Customers Better and Easily Sell More by Adopting the Man in the Desert Philosophy
Container Store employees are told the story of a man crawling through the desert gasping for a drink of water. He finds an oasis, where an ordinary retailer gives him water.
If it had been a Container Store retailer, employees are told, he would have been told “Here’s some water. Do you also want something to eat? And I see from your wedding ring that you are married. How about we call your family and let them know you’re here.” The principle is that you’re cheating the customer if you are not offering them the opportunity to buy more.
Get your employees to adopt the flexibility of Gumby and to always give the man in the desert more than a glass of water and your company will be well on the path to delivering Beyond WOW service!
Christopher Tkaczyk, 100 BEST COMPANIES TO WORK FOR
FORTUNE, Monday, Jan. 12, 2004