When working in the service industry we would regularly receive training on improving the customer experience. One of these seminars stuck with me for the longest time, and whenever I hear the phrase ‘No Problem’ I am drawn back to the lesson. The seminar started with a video of people working in the service industry, busy about their daily work. When approached by a customer they would reply to requests with the phrase ‘No Problem’ it seems innocent enough until we dissected it and went through the emotional reactions to hearing that.
As a customer, being told your request is ‘No Problem’ for the employee to complete implies that it actually is a problem to request that. However, that employees attitude towards helping you out makes it OK…. After a while, the customer starts to realize that many of their requests seem to be considered ‘problems’ by the employee and starts to feel uncomfortable requesting anything, and their stay is marred by this.
Not only did I find this fascinating from a customer service delivery perspective, but I think in the bigger picture it was one of the first time I actually appreciated what was clearly a professionally developed initiative to improve experience based upon psychological study of the customer. That led on to how we can influence thoughts and feelings by the way we choose to interact with them.
This training experience for whatever reason has changed the way that I have interacted with any number of people since then, often in very high touch consultative sales environments – the core that I captured from the training was that you have to be very careful not to inadvertently shape an encounter into something that it doesn’t need to be by careless use of language, and more importantly, non strategic thinking.
How this relates to the points and miles community for the week? Well, if you can internalize the notion of controlling your language into a goal orientated approach you will reap rewards aplenty in all aspects of your life, from customer service issues, to upgrades on planes, and simple human interactions at home or in business. More specifically I would like to draw your eye (which is the exact opposite of what we should do) the issue of the Vanilla Reload/CVS melodrama that is unfolding on Blogs, Twitter and forums. The rumor is that these VR cards won’t work with Credit anymore at CVS, so people can’t leverage their CVS related credit cards anymore.
Bloggers and Twits, along with those poor souls who simply interact on forums as they cannot afford a blog of their own are falling over themselves to find out the truth of the matter – is it TRUE? I heard two days ago that as of 03/31 or 04/1 this will happen, this tragic event where we cannot buy any more Vanilla at CVS –IS IT TRUE????
We need to know!!!! We need to know FIRST, because if it is true we need to know!!!!
These twits are asking store managers if they have seen this ‘Memo’ is it TRUE that I CANNOT do this? Is it TRUE that TOMORROW I CANNOT buy with a CREDIT CARD any more? IS IT TRUE?
You keep asking if it is true, and guess what – it becomes a PROBLEM.
You create the problem by picking poor words, and focusing the light of attention on something that you should not. I will let you into my biggest secret, I worry about Vanilla going away a little bit too, I mean – not too much because these things always go away and really, it’s not the end of the world in any case. But I am going to keep a stiff upper lip about this, because you know what, worrying is more likely to make your reality happen the way you don’t want it to than not.
Stiff Upper Lip –English Phase, origin from sailors who would feign death near a port in order to be dumped overboard and swim to freedom. They would be sewn into their hammocks, then cut their way free in the water. Once the command heard of this they instructed the final stitch on the hammock would go through the sailors upper lip, if they flinched or cried out they would be discovered and executed, if they could keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ they would be dumped overboard alive and could cut their way to freedom.
What I am going to do about CVS
Nothing, no panic, no asking the manager if it is TRUE, if a dozen blogs and a score of twits tell me it isn’t possible to buy with a credit card I will ignore them all – I don’t CARE – I will go to my local CVS, hand over my card and ask for my Vanilla, in my reality it is fine, there was never a problem. You may think this silly, but this is what I call the Jedi Mind Trick, and I have used it for things like avoiding immigration requirements, skipping around security protocols, closing business deals at prices twice the market rate and any other number of ways that have added incredible value to me.
What you can do to help me
You can stop running around like a headless chicken hoping to be the first to break the news on this, it either is true or it is not true and your input is less than worthless to that, your asking if it is TRUE only increases the chances of making it TRUE, so shut the hell up. Bloggers, write some more about the (rather excellent) Arrival Card, Twits, go back to sharing your Cats sleeping habits, Forum contributors, go back to being dicks to people who ask the same question you asked a week ago, and let me keep on buying my Vanilla. If you do want to buy up some more vanilla, do so within the scope of your credit lines, remember that if you lose the cards they are very hard to replace, and that they don’t have FDIC insurance, so don’t hold them too long, but most of all, if you buy them, keep calm, act normal and stop asking pointless questions that do nothing but make the people you ask start THINKING about this subject.
Excellent post. That is what i plan to do exactly. I dont understand why people go and ask the store people of all the guys if it is true or not and kill the golden goose? What has happened to human intelligence? Why are we getting so carried away by some stupid bloggers trying to make a big issue of it. Getting it known to general public is one thing but then they should know whent o stop and the masses should also know they shouldnt be behaving like sheep or chicken and get themselves chopped. This group mentality and forums that fuel them have to be chopped. I see people trying to pile up 10k and 20k at a time when they normally do 1k or 2k and they will end up creating suspicion on all the store guys and eventually the management might just decide to axe it even if they didnt have plans to do so. While on the one hand, internet is such a wonderful tool, it is just equally a dangerous tool in the hands of stupid people who dont think what they are doing first, before doing it. God save this herd mentality.
Exactly- I hope that we can keep a dose of reality here and stop the CNN style news reporter with inside scoops of news that doesn’t actually matter – it either is, or is not going to happen- don’t make it happen!
I respectfully disagree. By having all the blogs alert folks to the impending change that gave those in the know (blog readers) the opportunity to go supply up for the future in a financial expenditure that fit their comfort zone………and asking versus not asking won’t change a cash register that has been hard wired…….CVS is not Rite Aid………….they actually know how to control their workers……..and you won’t keep followers spewing twit venom at your readers……….
Hey, I don’t mind the headsup it may be happening, but why the hell does it offer any value to confirm or deny rather than just carry on?
Multiple people asking about this rumor can’t add anything positive to the outcome if it is already done and decided, but if it is rumor all they do is add fuel to the fire.
Great article, Matt. Beginning 4/1, I am participating in the Discover $500 cash back promotion, and I intend to march into CVS and get my VR.
I agree, read the blogs but don’t say a damn word to your CVS manager. Keep buying like you did yesterday. If you ask your manager they may look into something, when they start looking into is when all *&%$ hits the fan.
The Jedi Mind Trick doesn’t work well with addicts.
It’s works well on most people, it doesn’t work for many people
Matt, u read my mind! I was actually following up on the uproar in the past 24h and was following many bloggers/tweets but there was one person who really struck me as, and actually had a mental image, of a “headless chicken” running around, I smiled when I read your description 🙂
Anyway, solid advise man, another enjoyable article!
Thanks Adam, keep calm and rock on.
Ted F says
Jedi Mind Trick worked today for me. Heh.
I think the blog community is somewhat delusional if they think their conversation with the manager/cashier is going to change/quicken/slow down the hard wire in a computer……..either it happens or it doesn’t…….and these do do very well is communicate frequent flyer “deals”…………others like to take it a step further and “game” the system with deals that can be done despite corporate or story policy so they become especially agitated when someone spills the beans on these gray deals……..Fiduciary and shhh don’t tell represent a schizophrenic version of reality………….I personally laud all the honest folks out there that had a conversation with their CVS employee this weekend as someone who is forthright and honest in the way they conduct business…………
I love a heated debate, so if I argue with you, please don’t be offended!
But I disagree, as follows with certain points:
Impact of conversations on Managers/Cashiers: Example. In NYC there are 3 CVS stores within 5 minutes walk of each other, one allows $5K per transaction/day, one $2K, one $1K if this is a hard wire decision why are all three different? I posit that the ‘hard wire’ as you call it is $5K and the other two stores are discretionary, meaning that the manager of the store impacts what you can do – as such, enough influence to that person of power can change the rules.
Even if it can’t change the rules, it is more likely that it will if you make a point of talking about something than if you carry on without drawing attention. Why would you take the risk when there is no upside?
Also – Honesty, that is such a big subject. I personally saw that memo and thought it was likely a joke, perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t, but why would it be considered less honest to approach it as innocent until proven guilty? I see a photo of a memo a few days before April Fools Day and I am supposed to be ‘honest’ by telling the manager of the store I saw this? Makes no logical sense to me.
I think the point you are missing is the concept of transparency……..while some of us saw the memo and wanted to know if it was for real and we have a friendly relationship with our CVS managers so in a transparent approach to the issue we ask them…..and we expect them to be transparent back and give us an honest answer……….The NYC example doesn’t fit our Bay Area neighborhood so the idea of a floating max based on clientele doesn’t fit here……….but since none of the managers were aware of it and since all of them said it would happen in a hardware fashion I chose to stock up………..and I am very, very grateful for all the bloggers who were transparent and shared their conversations and stress as we all had some level of sadness and stress when receiving the news……..the Bloggers that put the news out did an excellent job and those of us that organized our time to stock up I think also did an excellent job………for those that sat on the sidelines not so much…………but no arguments don’t build blog readership……it drives people away so although won’t shut up when talking to my CVS manager I will shut up here…………..
I hear you, I just don’t like the idea of bloggers racing around trying to break the story that may not be true, not unlike the Malaysian Air reporting we went through from the big name shops, the difference is that I think asking too many questions does cause change.
Anyways… like I said, argue away, I respect your perspective and enjoy hearing different opinions, I would rather this blog was challenged more so I can refine my own thinking, if you should bow out, do so knowing that I appreciate you sticking up for your point of view.
Have to agree with Matt !
Went today to my friendly CVS which never runs out of VR. I have to repeat never! I do not need any VR at the moment but wanted to check first hand what is going on. Guess what ? All VR are gone and two store workers apologized telling me that bunch of people came yesterday with the rumor that you will not be able to buy VR with CC. Each bought 10 VR and left like there is the end of the world. I was acting surprised, as If I do not know what is going on. So, I do not know if it is going to happen or not but bunch of bloggers running around the town can NOT be a good thing, doing it transparently or not.
Thanks Alek, I am with you on that.
Good post, Matt. When I first started MSing, I saw the acronym “YMMV”. One thing I have learned is that my “YMMV” is MUCH better if I interact politely, friendly, positively, purposefully, calmly and skillfully with others involved in the MS arena. Over the years, I have made casual friends with cashiers and managers and some know my name, my job and the street I live on. We have friendly conversation each visit. I couldn’t begin to count how many “breaks” or “good luck” moments I’ve had. Last night at my local grocery store, they were out of VRs. For some reason, they allow CC on VRs, but not MPs. When I first started buying there, I was repeatedly told cash-only for MPs. A lot of time has passed and I decide to give a MP another try last night. There is a new cashier I haven’t met who tells me “cash only”. Julia the manager notices me and comes by to say “Hi” and for some small talk. She introduces me by name to the new cashier as “a regular”. She notices the card and says “just one tonight?”. I mentioned I didn’t realize this brand was cash only, but it was fine – I’ll just wait for the next shipment of VRs. Julia the manager says. “You can buy these on your card”. The cashier seems confused and says “But I thought the. . . .”. The manager interrupts and says “for him it’s okay.” Julia looks at me holding my DL, rolls her eyes and says “and we don’t need to see your ID anymore”.
A second example highlighting how a series of “little things” over time can lead to these relations. I’ve been going to wm to billpay once a week every week for months. Always bp the same card, the same amount, and always include multiple $500 OVs. I’m always friendly (and a delight to be around) and am becoming casual friends with some of the MoneyCenter staff. Today, I’m the only one standing in line and an elderly man (probably 70s with early dementia) hobbles over and asks if I’m in line. I say yes and move a bit closer to the registers to make it more obvious. He wanders back and then around the ropes and notices the side register now open. He hobbles over to the register. The cashier was aware of what happened and knew I was next in line. She looks annoyed and looks toward me to call me over. I gently gesture toward the elderly man, nod my head and mouth the words “It’s okay, he can go next”. She looks at the man and now notices he has “lost some of his bearing”, her shoulders drop down and she turns to me and mouths the words “you are a good man”. . . Then, my turn comes and I get a semi-trained cashier. The cashier next over is free and she comes over to say “hi”. She tells the new cashier “Oh, he comes in every week to pay his Barclay card. Make sure you enter Mastercard”. The new cashier seems impressed, so the veteran cashier hams it up and says “and he will pay with 4 debit cards, $500 each”. She looks at my cards and for the first time they are not OVs. I have two bright yellow US visa buxx I need to liquidate. There is a brief awkward pause and she says “Only two today? Different ones?”. Now, I’m just about to get into “problem mode”. Should I say the limits on these are higher so I’m switching? Should I explain why I have so many debit cards? Rather, I playfully say “I like to mix it up sometimes to keep you all on your toes”. They all laughed and continued with the transaction. The cashier then says “Oh, and look – he always brings a current copy of his billing statement and highlights the account number”. He is the ONLY one who does that for us. I then say “and next time I will also write down my phone number on the statement for you”. The cashier leans forward and quietly says “thats a good idea. Some people waiting in line will listen and try to get numbers”. I thank her for the tip and wish them all a great day.
I think you nailed it here, these are exactly the sort of things that make the difference between success and failure, great work!
I am just thinking out loud. Wouldnt this action have an impact on the economy to a certain extent? Millions of dollars of cash flow that is currently happening through credit cards a week would stop. I dont think this makes economic sense as banks and airlines will not like this and neither will the retail. Even CVS might start reporting lower sales figures from this quarter. I guess there might be some other product that comes up just to keep the mile enthusiasts going on. I am not an expert on this but looking forward to some kind of article from some good blogger out there. Any thoughts, Matt?
It seems to me that people ask those asinine questions for one reason, primarily: they don’t want to be embarrassed. Heaven forbid that they hand over their credit card, only to be told, “Sorry, we’ve gone cash only.” OMG. The humiliation.
But if you ASK, like a good boy or girl, and get an answer, then you can either hand over the card, or slink away quietly and avoid attracting attention to yourself. Or, so they think. Am I happy that this appears to be true? No, because it is an easy way to rack up points and miles. Am I devastated? Again, no, because any method of getting more miles or more points or more cash back that involves fake spending is a gift that the credit card company hadn’t really planned to give me, anyway.
I’ll use others.
On Monday everything was fine at my local CVS and the manager, who knows me well, mentioned that in Florida starting April 1st they aren’t allowing credit card sales anymore. I live in SoCal. I thought this was excellent news. Being more reserved, I knew I shouldn’t just yet sign up for a targeted 150,000 point Amex Plat. card with a 20k spend in 3 months. Today I was strongly considering that card again. I went to my local CVS and the clerk, not the GM that knows me well, but a clerk that is on a first name basis with me takes my TWO vanilla card order, glances at my cc and tells me that starting today they are only accepting cash. He told me that it is due to the credit card charges and the huge loss CVS is taking on the sale of these types of cards. He had a handy sheet next to the register with all the cards in effect (the same as the pic floating around the web) and the VR was hi-lighted… He mentioned that even at a 1% processing fee they are losing millions of dollars with the 7,000 stores. Not due to fraud or anything else. I will keep trying but I think it may be dead. The clerk did ask me on my way out if any of the other local stores had the same policy – meaning that maybe he knows some don’t yet…