I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s earlier this week, for probably the hundredth time. I could recite most of it by heart. It is, as you might guess, one of my favourite films. It is not one of my husband’s favourite films.
There is one key scene in the movie, when the two main characters visit Tiffany & Co together for the first time. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) adores it there, and her would-be beau Paul (George Peppeard) is determined to buy her a gift. He has only $10 cash to his name, though, and Holly is unsure they’ll be able to find anything at Tiffany’s for such a small amount.
They cautiously approach a counter to be greeted by a salesman with one of the best service ethics I’ve ever seen represented in film.
Here are two customers who clearly can not afford most of the merchandise on display. Diamonds are out of the question, and Holly gently lets Paul off the hook of such expense by declaring that she feels they would be too tacky for her before she turns 40. But Paul is determined to buy her something.
The sales assistant, impeccably and tactfully treading the fine line between embarrassing these young folks and working within clear budget limitations, finds the one item Paul can afford. It is a sterling silver telephone dialler, retailing for $6.75. It’s cute, but not romantic enough for Paul.
He pulls out a ring from his pocket. Not an heirloom, nor of any great value. It was a free gift from inside a Crackerjack box. He asks if Tiffany’s would be prepared to engrave something on it for Holly.
As Holly looks on in anticipation, and even asks if Tiffany’s would think it might be “beneath them” to engrave such an item, the store assistant assured her that Tiffany’s would be most accommodating, and would even be able to have it ready for them the following morning.
Holly is swept away with her love and faith in her favourite place, and jumps forward to kiss the employee on the cheek. They leave with her adoration of the store intact. “Didn’t I tell you this is a lovely place?”, she declares to Paul as they leave.
What the salesman achieved here was subtle, immeasurable and valuable. He made two of the organisation’s cheapest customers feel as special as anyone else in there, regardless of their spend. He recognised the value of nurturing the customer relationship, and the upkeep of the brand reputation that goes along with that.
He did all this without knowing anything about these two people. As it happens, Paul has just had his first story published. He may well soon be a successful writer. If things go well, these two will be returning to Tiffany’s for the engagement ring, wedding bands, eternity ring, and, yes, those diamonds in later life.
Recognising the value all your customers bring, regardless of their spending power on any particular day, is priceless. If you can build that culture, you have cultivated a rare gem.
This article first appeared on my Linkedin publications in May 2018