My Staples Experience: Easy Is as Easy Does

by Jean Marie Johnson

Out of My Element

I don't need to be called out on it: I had my back up, literally. My body language was a dead give- away. My shoulders were just shy of my ears and the determination in my step was unmistakable. I was a woman on a mission, one that was central to my life and my livelihood: technology.

It's not often that I feel out of my element in a retail situation. I have a natural affinity for consumer-generated credos such as shop ‘til you drop and it's all about the hunt. But this "situation" couldn't have been more different. I'll grant you, it wasn't exactly a matter of life and death, but try telling that to the butterflies in my stomach or the tension nestled in my furrowed brows.

I drove 39 minutes to the nearest Staples on the promise that my technology solution would be easy. It's not often that these two words appear in the same sentence, and never, ever, in a word association game, at least not in my world.  But that was about to change, big time.

The Story within the Story: Every Customer Has One

Let me rewind, though, as a little background will shed light on my distress. While most people were saying sayonara to the old year and eagerly awaiting the promise of the new one ahead, I was ending mine in a complete technological meltdown:

  • 12/31/11: Strange and stranger laptop dysfunction persists despite a two hour call to a Support Desk somewhere in Asia.
  • 1/1/12: Happy New Year! Four hours and 22 minutes on another call to the same Support Desk and my phone runs out of power as I am being walked through the reinstallation of my operating system. I receive a voicemail that tells me that I will be called by a technician within 24 hours.

  • 1/2/12: I wait. And I wait. No call. I call them, three times, and am told that I will receive a call "shortly."

  • 1/3/12: I have had enough. I begin my 39 minute drive to Staples.

Who Knew?

Marching in, I do a visual scan and act on my gut:

Excuse me, are you the manager? 

Yes, I am. Can I help you with something?

Well, that depends. May I ask you another question?


Are your sales people on commission?

No, they're not.

Great. Then I am about to spend a lot of money with you and I really need some help.

Let me introduce you to Brenden. And your name is….?

Two hours and approximately 15 minutes later, my shoulders were back where they're supposed to be, the butterflies had disappeared, and the tension was nothing but a bad memory. The experience was "as promised;" it was easy.

But this isn't a tale about the relief that comes from rebounding from technology hell, though I am thrilled with that. It is a story about learning from a personal customer experience that delivered on a well-crafted expectation.  As a result, I am both grateful and loyal. As a result, I advocate, tell others. As a result, I drag my husband in and say, "You have to meet Brenden."  I may even defend…should the need arise.  I go too far…

These are strange and strong emotions, indeed. Much more than that, they are nothing short of a marketer's dream. For that, they're worth a closer look.

Four Keys to Creating Experiences that Deliver

As much as we'd like to believe that humans are mere rational beings, it simply isn't so. Experience is emotional. And so, of course, is loyalty.  What made this experience so exceptional?  Not one "thing," surely, but many coming together to make it easy: for me. Let's take a look:

  1. Branding that taps motivation: We need to know that they really "get" us. We love technology when it works.  It keeps us wired and connected to what matters to us. And, increasingly, it allows us to get our work done and to make a living. When it goes awry, we can feel out of our element, dependent, and at the mercy of expertise we don't understand. But Staples does. The wisdom and the brilliance in the branding is the promise to make it easy. Thank you, thank you! You understand my sweet spot. Notice that the promise isn't about being perfect or effortless, claims that would be far too subjective to execute or measure. "Easy" lands in just the right place.

  2. Functional Expertise:  We need to know that they know what they're talking about.  I told the manager that I was about to spend a lot of money, but that I also needed a lot of advice. When he walked me over to, in my mind, the-poor-guy-who-would-be-stuck-with-me, he said "Brenden will take good care of you." He did. He asked me how I worked, how I used my laptop, what I liked and didn't like about the one that had served me so well for so long. He listened, and then he asked some more questions, and answered every one of mine.

  3. Customized Experience: We need to know that a willy-nilly, one size fits all solution isn't being hoisted upon us. When I told Brenden that I had "done a little research and understand that the new Blah-blah-blah is supposed to be really good," he nodded patiently, then adeptly steered me in another direction. In doing so, he saved me hundreds of dollars that I had already resigned myself to shelling out.

    Together we strolled down an organized sea of laptops. As my head began to spin with options, Brendan narrowed it down to three. I kept explaining and describing my working quirks and hot buttons, and now we were down to two. "You decide."  "No, you." We laughed.

    When we eventually made it over to the checkout counter, Brenden explained everything that would happen next, and when. When I came by three days later to pick up my laptop (with all of my files seamlessly transferred) everything was in order, and as promised: EASY.

  4. Real Engagement:  We need to know that they care. Care. As hokey and tired as this word sounds, I am hard-pressed to come up with one that is more fitting. A realist to the core, a few hard facts don't burst my humanistic leanings: I know that Staples is in business to make money. I know that people need to perform and to produce to keep their jobs. I know that they need to build and retain a customer base. I know that someone somewhere is looking at the P and L for this remote location. I know, I know, I know. But that is true everywhere. 

The difference is that sometimes we have a real, human experience in the process, and sometimes we simply don't. Service providers either go through the motions or they interact with us in a human, genuine way. Here's the thing: there is no script for being human, and you do have to color outside of the lines to be truly responsive to me. 

Loyal Me

Making it easy is as much about how you help me as it is about that you do. I'll take that a step further: those frozen shoulders, butterflies and furrowed brow had little to do with being "angry" or upset. No, I was long over the disappointment of all of that. In fact, it was even more primal: I was afraid. How much work time would I lose? Would all of my information be intact? Would this new computer and I "get along?" And so on, and so on.

Staples' promise to me, in the form of Brenden's business card, resides under the glass top of my 1940's desk. He knows, because I told him. Along with that symbol of my loyalty, I have acted as the grateful pragmatist that I am, transferring my technology and office-related buying to Staples because easy is as easy does… really.

And about that call from the "other" service provider? It came seven days too late. An easy decision, alas.

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives.  And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.

Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.