Originally coined by Sam Walton, the “Sundown Rule” it’s a principle based on that old adage that goes “why put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Sam implemented the rule at Walmart which meant that the company answers requests, whether by the customer (particularly important) or other vendors or partners by sundown on the day that they receive them, rather than putting the requests off until a later time.
While Sam Walton put that rule into place for Walmart employees decades ago, it’s still an incredibly important part of the company’s culture and a major driver behind the way the company treats its customers, partners, vendors, and all those that rely on its services.
Whether or not you enjoy visiting Walmart’s stores, the company is doing many things right. In 2014 alone, 11,000 stores made $473 billion in sales, with 2.2 million associates working to the beat of the Walmart Cheer, which ends with a chant that “The Customer is #1 – Always!” Customer service even appears in Walmart’s Culture statement, which among other things, includes beliefs such as:
- Serve customers by making them our first priority
Everything possible is done to make shopping at Wal-Mart a friendly, pleasant experience
- The “Ten-Foot Attitude” means that associates are to greet each person they see
- The “Satisfaction Guaranteed” refund and exchange policy allows customers to be fully confident of Wal-Mart’s merchandise and quality
- Support associates so they can best serve customers
These beliefs, along with the Sundown Rule, are taken seriously by Walmart executives and employees alike. In their stores where their jobs depend on one another, it’s their standard to get things done as soon as possible – before the sun goes down, but most importantly to ensure the customer is valued throughout the process.
These beliefs illustrate a key point about productivity, no matter the industry or business. In principle, if you get more things done today than everyone else, you’ll accomplish more than your competitors.
The Sundown Rule and Customer Success
How does the Sundown Rule apply to Customer Success at your organization? As an executive, you have the ability to set a precedence for the rest of your organization as to how they (especially CSMs) should treat the customer, whether an internal or external customer. One of the most impactful ways your team can serve the customer is to ensure they get an answer the same day as their inquiry – no matter what their request or question entails.
Implementing the Sundown Rule For Your CSM Team
Depending on the complexity of the customer request, it may not be possible for your CSMs to solve customer problems or answer inquiries on the same day as they are received. However, the Sundown Rule can still apply by implementing a set of guidelines for your CSMs, pending on the scenario:
- Simple to solve: If possible, work internally and speak with anyone necessary in order to completely solve the customer’s problem or answer their inquiry, and respond to the customer with all correlating details.
- Difficult to solve: If it’s not possible to solve the customer’s problem or answer their inquiry, then take as many steps as possible and explain the course of action to the customer, including next steps for the following day, week, month, etc.
- Poor timing or off hours: If it’s not possible to even start to solve the customer’s problem or answer their inquiries, or if the request comes during hours that make it difficult, then acknowledge the inquiry and let the customer know that a follow-up will come shortly with next steps.
Think about a personal scenario for a moment: you contact your bank, insurance company, accountant, or even a home repairman about a question or a need. What happens if they don’t respond within a day or several days? Not having insight into what’s going on and when you will get an answer or response can be very frustrating – and it’s the same with your company’s customers.
Your customers are the most valuable assets your company has, so it’s up to you and your CSM team and leaders to ensure that your customers are being served in a way that helps them meet their own needs.
How Could Your Company Adopt the Sundown Rule?
Does your company already have customer response guidelines in place? If so, how do you ensure that CSMs and all those on the frontlines adhere to the principles? Responding to customer inquiries – whether internal customers or external – in a timely manner will help the customer feel valued, even if the resolution isn’t instantaneous.