In the land of ice and snow where ice hockey rules supreme, one of the consumable products people buy is hockey sticks. A hockey stick can cost anywhere from fifteen to two hundred dollars. One of the big hockey stick manufacturers in Canada is Sherwood. I’m not sure of their market share, but it has to be pretty substantial. Hockey sticks break after some use and this story relates to this phenomenon.
One of my staff, Patty purchased a new Sherwood stick for her husband from a large Canadian retailer. It wasn’t a particularly expensive stick, about 20 dollars. But when it was used on a backyard rink for the very first time, the stick split lengthwise down the shaft. It was obviously a defect in the wood because most sticks break by snapping in half.
This is the first touch point in the customer service chain for the retailer....
Patty took the stick back to the retailer requesting a new one. Not an unreasonable request. This is when she ran up against the wall of stupidity that runs through the retail business all over the world. The time when seemingly bright people abandon logic, then run and hide behind the mind numbing Policy Statement. “Our policy is not to take back broken hockey sticks.” Further compounded by the evasive lie designed to deflect the blame from them, “Sherwood doesn’t give us credit for broken hockey sticks, that’s why we won’t take them back.”
“But this is obviously a flaw in the wood. It’s defective. Have you ever seen a hockey stick break lengthwise down the shaft like this?”
“It doesn’t matter how it broke, we don’t take back broken hockey sticks.”
“Yes I know, it’s your policy,” Patty said sarcastically.
“Let me speak with your manager.”
This is when the retail giant still has the opportunity to salvage this situation, but no, the manager parrots the company line, “I’m sorry, we don’t take back broken hockey sticks because...” wait for it, here it comes again, the deflective lie, “because Sherwood won’t give us credit for broken hockey sticks.” Five times, she heard the same lie.
For twenty bucks, she could have just let it drop there, but she was not going to let the retail giant intimidate her. “Please give me the number to contact Sherwood,” which to their credit, they managed to do. At this point, not only was she steamed at the large Canadian retailer but she also didn’t think much of Sherwood Hockey Sticks based on what she had been told by the staff at the store.
Patty went home, telephoned Sherwood, related the story to them and their response, “Of course we give credit for defective hockey sticks, what a line of malarky.” This is the part of the story that restores faith that honesty and integrity still run deep in many businesses. The representative from Sherwood supplied Patty with a courier number to ship the defective stick back to them at their expense and told her they would look after it. Which they did.
Ever hear of Pole Vault Over the Top Customer service? Here is what Sherwood did. Patty would have been very pleased to have received one hockey stick back from Sherwood, but they went way beyond what she expected. This is what caused Patty to rave about this hockey stick company, caused this story to be written and ultimately for you to be reading it now. Sherwood, knowing that Patty needed to have her faith in Sherwood hockey sticks restored, executed Pole Vault Over the Top customer service by sending her six, yes, six brand new hockey sticks! It was like Christmas. She told everybody she saw, she phoned relatives and friends to tell them the latest in the hockey stick saga. Her husband, who doesn’t get too excited about anything, told his everyone on his entire shift at the factory where he works.
So now when Patty’s family go out to buy hockey sticks guess what brand they will buy for the rest of their lives? Sherwood. Guess where they will never buy from? The large Canadian retailer. Guess what will also never happen again. They’ll never buy gardening supplies, auto repairs, sports equipment of any kind, camping gear, etc. etc. They probably spent upwards of a couple thousand dollars a year at the retailer, maybe more. Consider that they have the potential of shopping there for the next 40 years, the large Canadian retailer, for the cost of a defective twenty dollar hockey stick just lost $80,000...and that doesn’t even count the amount of lost business from all the people who hear this story.
Is your business vulnerable to the same types of situations? Are you a supplier that retailers are telling mis-truths about? Do you communicate your policies effectively so the people who distribute your products know what to say about your product? Do you as a retailer allow your staff to be uninformed about the products they sell or do you empower your staff and managers to make logical, customer based decisions and even encourage Pole Vault Over the Top Customer Service? Can you afford to let your staff make a twenty dollar decision that costs you $80,000?
Picture your staff providing Pole Vault Over the Top Service, then give them the tools to make it happen.