Office Depot Customer Service: Competition Is Right Next Door
Adam Toporek Keynote Speaker of Customers That Stick®

Office Depot Customer Service: Competition Is Right Next Door


I am pleased to introduce Donna Gurnic, our Market Development Coordinator here at CTS Service Solutions. After hearing about Donna’s Office Depot story, I encouraged her to share it in her own voice for our Customer Service Stories series.


Last week I had the most unique experience I have ever had as a customer.

I was searching for a specifically sized clipboard and was using only a picture text message for reference.

I walked into a major office supply chain and asked a store associate where the clipboards were. He groaned and mumbled, “Oh boy, I don’t really know.” He then asked another associate who was on the phone, and the associate rattled off something about aisle 10.

Aisle 10 was a bust. They didn’t have what I was looking for, and it was obvious the staff had hit the limit of what they could (or would) do for me, so I left the store without even receiving a “have a nice day.”

Competition Is Always Waiting

My next stop was at Office Depot in Altamonte Springs (Store #30), where a cashier warmly greeted me as soon as I walked inside. I told him I was looking for clipboards, and he directed me to the appropriate area of the store.

On the way, I was intercepted by a friendly associate, we’ll call her Lucy, who escorted me to the clipboards.

Office Depot Customer Service | Purple ClipboardAs we walked, I commented on how much better they were at helping customers than the folks over at the other office supply chain. I told her that I had just left there, and they really didn’t do much to help me.

She stood with me while I deliberated over whether to get the clipboards with the purple geometric patterns or the blue checkers. After about a minute, I told Lucy that I would text a photo to my boss for approval, and told her, “I promise I’m not going to buy them online.”

She replied warmly, “We can always order them for you if you’d like.”

I finally bought all of the purple geometric clipboards they had. As Lucy walked me to the register, I told her how much I loved coming in the store and how nice everyone always is to me.

Then she did something that surprised me.

She asked if I wanted to share that with all the employees over her radio.

I shrugged and said, “sure!”

Lucy took off her headset and pressed the microphone button while I announced:

“I just wanted everyone to know that I really appreciate how helpful everyone is every time I come in here. You are all so much nicer than [other office supply chain], and I just really love coming in here.”

Lucy put her headset back on and all of a sudden, I heard applause coming from all over the store. I looked around and all the employees were clapping, smiling and nodding their heads toward me.

I immediately began to blush. I felt like I was the only customer in the store.

Before I left, I must have thanked Lucy five or six times. On the way out the door, she made sure to say, “Thanks for coming in and have a great day!” There was nothing phony about her service delivery; she treated me with care, patience and respect.

I imagine this isn’t the first time Lucy has let a customer do this, but it sure felt like it.

Maybe it is one of Office Depot’s hidden systems? If so, it didn’t make a bit of difference to me. Lucy WOW’d me in a moment that didn’t demand it.

Simple Gestures Can Create an Impact Many Times Greater Than Intended

I was not only WOW’d by Lucy’s gesture, but I learned some valuable lessons from her:

  • It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make someone’s day.
  • A compliment can be felt more by the giver than the receiver.
  • Helping a customer through the decision-making process increases the likelihood that they will actually make that purchase.
  • Customer facing professionals like Lucy begin solving customer challenges with can, not can’t.
  • Making it easy and fun for a customer to give good feedback encourages them to do so.

The team at Office Depot in Altamonte Springs showed how the simplest gesture can have a notable impact on a customer. In this case, a focus on the customer and a few small things done right provided an immediate contrast with a weakly performing competitor.

The team at Office Depot turned a simple order for clipboards into a link in the chain of customer loyalty, and it only took a smile, some attention, and a quick WOW.

When was the last time you felt you were the only one in a store who mattered? Have you ever had a poor experience and gone to a competitor to be WOW’d?

About the Author Adam Toporek

By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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