Good Will

Are your employees loyal ambassadors of your company?

When you think of marketing, you probably think of ads, brochures, newsletters and other tangible means of getting your message out. But there's another important way of spreading your marketing message: your employees.

Your employees are ambassadors of your business, representing it to the community and the customer. That can be good or bad. Consider this example:

The other day I stopped at a local video rental store. I had called earlier to reserve a movie my son needed to see for a class he was taking. But when I got to the counter and asked for the movie, a fellow with "Dave" on his name tag told me it had already been checked out.

Needless to say, I was not happy. I told him I had spoken with a young man named Sean, who assured me there would be no problem holding the movie for up to eight hours. Naturally, Sean was nowhere to be found, and no one else was aware of my request.

Just as I was about to lose my ties to civilized behavior, a young woman stepped forward. Her name was Carrie, she looked about 17, and she was not wearing the word "manager" anywhere on her name tag. Nevertheless, she displayed maturity and wisdom beyond her years, as she quickly said, "I'll check our records and find out when the next copy is due in, and we'll call our other store across town to be certain you get one before we close tonight. Let me be sure we have the right phone number so we can reach you when it comes in. Also, because you were inconvenienced, here is a coupon for a free movie rental any time this month."

Now, I don't know if Carrie was trained to act this way, or if she was simply told to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. All I know is that she did exactly the right thing as far as I was concerned: She listened and responded quickly.

The word "empowered" gets tossed around a lot these days. And while a teenager working in a video store may not exemplify the image typically associated with employee empowerment, that's exactly what she was--empowered to act on behalf of the manager, the store and the company to satisfy the customer. Her behavior was worth its weight in Milk Duds because it practically guarantees I will continue to do business with that video store--and will probably tell at least 10 other people what a good experience I had.

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This article was originally published in the February 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Good Will.

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