I called Office Depot today. The phone was answered by a girl who, in a bored tone, said:
“Thank you for calling Office Depot, how may I take care of your business today?”
Uh, take care of my business?
Whatever happened to “how may I help you?”
That always worked well. I don’t think saying “How may I help you?” was broken.
Besides, the problem was that attitude. I don’t think she was qualified to answer the phone, let alone take care of my business.
Remember, marketing is everything in your business that the customer interacts with in one way or another, and there is evidence to suggest that your customer interacts with everything and everyone in your business. Yes, even HR . Every company is selling to not only their customers, but also their employees simultaneously. The front line in this battle for significance is the way your employees answer the phone.
The first rule for the person answering the phone is:
Make sure you are happy and smiling when you answer the phone!
In retrospect, I wouldn’t have thought about the issues plaguing Office Depot unless that Office Depot employee answered the phone with a weird spiel in a “life sucks” way. She did get my attention, but I don’t think it’s helpful to Office Depot.
I’ll start by saying that I still have to go to Office Depot. Their store is big, has a large selection and they are close. It is a geographic/convenience thing. But my perception of Office Depot has changed over time. Other than giving me a reward for spending money with them, and giving me $1 for each empty ink cartridge, I don’t really think they care that I’m a customer, or that they should earn my business. It’s almost as if they believe they are the only game in town.
Office Max is close by too, but it’s a small store and doesn’t have items I’m looking for – like presentation folders made out of something stiffer than tissue paper. They treat me a little better than Office Depot however, but not enough to make me drive to their large store.
Both Office Max and Office Depot remind me of Home Depot a year before Lowes opened next door to them. The office supply business needs a Lowes. A great selection, a friendly smile, and a brand employees feel good about is foundational to success in business.
Magic helps too.
People like to suspend judgment and believe in magic. That’s why Apple is so successful. Steve Jobs sold the new iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. as magical. Apple’s products are currently more than the sum of their parts. Much more. They represent status, and your connection to the world. They are an experience, a necessity, and evidence of your cool factor. You may not have been “cool” in school, but you can own the essence of cool.
Office Depot could make it happen and change our perception of office supplies. Talk about how business relies upon them. Talk about entrepreneurs, and how important they are to them. Send postcards and run specials for business owners. It’s possible. But I think they are complacent. Like Lowes did to Home Depot, a new company is going to have to come along and give them a run for their money and make them want to compete again.
If a new office supply company opened within 10 miles and made me feel special, like Apple stores do, I would shop there exclusively – even if I had to drive 10 miles to get there. Which makes me think, would the Apple stores be packed with people if the geniuses were typical, rude IT people? The answer, is no! Even with stellar, “magical” products, they would drive people away.