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How One Man Can Make A Difference

Bryan Silbermann, President of the Produce Marketing Association, and the Pundit had a recent exchange regarding customer service in PRODUCE BUSINESS, a sister publication of the Pundit.

The exchange was based on consumer research done by PMA that emphasized the enormous impact “high touch” can have in improving customer experience with retailers.

It is interesting to note that this is exactly the point that Tom Parker Bowles — a British food writer and the son of the woman most Americans know as Camilla Parker Bowles, now referred to as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, since she married Prince Charles — found exceptional regarding the new Whole Foods in London. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Daily Mail that we highlighted in the Pundit:

You are constantly being offered food to taste by the very people who make it, so you can ask them lots of questions. It’s a brilliant idea…. Whole Foods Market is the opposite of the usual supermarket experience mainly because you are encouraged to touch, taste and smell.

Now Bryan was kind enough to send along an inspirational video link. Written by Ken Blanchard & Barbara Glanz — that is Ken Blanchard of “One Minute Manager” fame — it tells the story of “Johnny the Bagger,” a young man with Down’s syndrome who responded to a seminar given by Barbara Glanz to employees at a large supermarket chain by deciding to find a way to make a difference to the customers at the grocery store where he was bagging.

The video is heartwarming and you can watch it here.

It also has turned into a whole industry with Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz writing a book, The Simple Truths of Service As Inspired by Johnny the Bagger, with a range of DVDs, videos and training kits available here.

The basic thing “Johnny” does is to identify a “Thought for the Day,” which he then prints on a little slip of paper which he puts in the shopping bag of every grocery bag he fills. Customers so enjoyed the “thoughts,” they would wait on line to have “Johnny” as their bagger.

It is a great story and one the Pundit learned early on: Everyone should have a person in their life who symbolizes a world beyond day-to-day boundaries. For this Pundit, that was (and is) a man named Hunter.

Everyone should have an uncle who is always zipping in from a foreign country, putting his life in danger on some hostile border, then skinning-dipping with royalty and movie stars. After a lifetime abroad that took him from the Wm. Morris Agency, getting caught by Life magazine kissing the hand of Gina Lolabrigida on the red carpet of a movie premiere and marrying royalty in Bangkok, my uncle Hunter settled down in New York City where he became the most successful and famous salesperson at the world-renowned Bergdorf Goodman department store.

He sold men’s suits and his clientele spanned the globe. His rolodex was golden, and it was common for some captain of industry, prince or potentate to call with an order for tens of thousands of dollars in clothing.

How did Hunter build such a clientele? On the back of his business cards. On every interaction with a customer, Hunter gave out a business card personalized with a poem, story or aphorism he had written himself.

And that simple card led important people — sheiks from Arabia and dictators from Zaire — to all insist their suits come from Hunter.

Many of these cards are collected in his book, From the Bottom of My Soul to the Back of My Cards: The Philosophy and Poetry of A Salesperson. You can buy it here.

“Johnny” and the Pundit’s uncle Hunter both remind us that the notion that we can’t do more is almost never true. It also explains why despite all the advantages of scale, a smart and dedicated little guy can often win the war.

Many thanks to Bryan and to PMA for reminding us to focus on customer service.

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