person does not have all the answers
once told us "for the most part, good employees are developed,
not found." His belief in this idea is evidenced by an extensive
training program he has had for many years and by a unique method
of working with customers. The employees are educated to continually
crosscheck with one another when they are solving customer's problems.
The owner called this method a "solution by committee."
of this style was borrowed from Whitey Herzog, who managed the St.
Louis Cardinals. A reporter asked Herzog how he decided who would
be the team's relief pitcher on any given afternoon. His response
was that he would ask the bullpen, "Who feels he is best able
to solve the problem?"
a look at a store to see an example of solution by committee. A customer
comes into a garden center with a problem: a patch of his yard that
is dying. The customer tells the employee, Bonnie, that he wants something
to kill some bugs that are destroying his yard. In too many cases
the employee will simply direct the customer to liquid or granular
are these two items that traditionally have a very low margin, but
also we do not even know if this is the right solution to the problem.
In this example, Bonnie is trained to ask the customer why he thinks
he has bugs in his yard. She will listen to his answer and go on to
ask if there is an irrigation system or sprinkler being used, how
long he has had this problem, how does the rest of the yard look,
and if the problem area is growing in size. Bonnie's explains to the
customer that the problem could be a result of bugs, fungus, or a
lack of water; and she wants him to go home with the right solution
for the problem.
to his response, makes her analysis, and then tells the customer how
to solve the problem, what products to use, and why she is making
that suggestion. The customer often will ask, "Are you sure?"
Bonnie responds, "Yes, but let's check with Gordon just to make
sure. Gordon has a lot of experience with lawns, and it never hurts
to have a second opinion." As Bonnie and the customer approach
Gordon, she repeats to Gordon the situation and her solution. Using
this method will result in several things.
hearing his story repeated, the customer may often remember additional
details that may be crucial to the solution. As Gordon hears the story,
he will decide if Bonnie's solution is correct. Perhaps he will need
to ask additional questions.
agrees with Bonnie, a statement to the effect of, "She has got
it solved for you. You will be rid of those bugs in no time."
In the eyes of the customer, Bonnie and Gordon are both knowledgeable
people and not only is he more likely to return to the store, but
also he will probably seek out either of these employees when he does.
if Gordon doesn't think this is the correct solution? The important
thing is that Gordon not contradict Bonnie with the customer present.
Gordon can begin to ask additional questions. As he gathers more information,
he can say, "From what you first told us, I thought you have bugs; but with this additional information,
I am leaning toward a fungus problem. Let me ask a couple of other
questions about your yard." From the questions Gordon has asked,
it confirms the problem is fungus. The customer would have wasted
his money if he had bought the "bug killer" he had initially
is solved, and Gordon asks Bonnie if she can think of anything else
they should ask and if she is in agreement with the redirected solution.
Knowing that Gordon has uncovered additional information, Bonnie will
agree with Gordon and then assist the customer in selecting a fungicide.
She will provide the directions for the proper application of the
product and also show the proper type of applicator to use. The sale
is made, and the customer is appreciative of both employees.
is the more experienced employee, he has heard information that he
can use to assist Bonnie in gaining more knowledge. And in a brief
moment, he explains why he was not in agreement with her initial analysis,
and why he was asking additional questions.
thing for Bonnie is that in addition to completing a sale, she received
a brief training session and was not put in an embarrassing position
in front of a customer. It was also helpful that Gordon had been educated
in techniques to assist newer employees.
successful owner is not lucky. He knows how to educate employees,
not only with product knowledge but also with interpersonal relationship
skills. Solution by committee is a great way to develop better employees,
appreciative customers who return to your store, and a healthy bottom