Secrets of Success from UPS Stores

By: Jan Bolick

Note:  This story was written and shared  for  Customer Service Week in October 2011.  The leader, teacher and mentor of the story is Chris Derby who died suddenly from a heart attack this week.  What a wonderful business man he was.  Many people learned from him – and will continue to do so.  Thanks, Chris for living and loving the way that you did!


Up until December of last year, I had always gotten good service from the UPS Store on Fordham Blvd in Chapel Hill, NC.

That was because owner Chris Derby was there, always as pleasant as a human can be, calmly and patiently guiding me through the myriad of choices available for getting a package delivered on time and on budget.

And then there was that Saturday in December.

There were three lines.  At least three people in each.  Their arms loaded with packages.

Behind the counter were three workers.

Chris was nowhere in sight.

I chose a line and once I shushed the nagging naysayer sitting on my shoulder telling me to leave and come back another time, I realized that both customers and workers were smiling and having a good time.  Chatting about this and that but still getting work done and moving the lines along.

It also gave me a chance to realize the wide array of products and services  offered besides PS delivery.  From printing  brochures to processing bulk mail orders to notarizing documents to converting analog movies  to DVD.  They also offer post office boxes with a street address.

All of the sudden, someone said, “It’s snowing!”

You would’ve thought we were a bunch of kindergarteners.

Which reminds me –over in the corner sat a table where kids can draw and color while their parents handle business.

When it was my turn, a young woman named Liz took care of me and my packages.   Before leaving, I asked her about Chris and she said he wasn’t working that day.

This favorite quote* came to mind.

And then I made a mental note to call Chris and ask if he would share his secrets to success.

When I did, he said, “Of course!” and suggested I also speak with his team members.

Some things I learned while visiting team members  at the Fordham Boulevard store:

1.      Making customers happy is important to them.

2.     They enjoy being helpful.  To customers and to each other.

3.     They have a  work schedule they can rely on – not a lot of last minute changes

4.     If they have an emergency, Chris works with them  to change  their work schedule.t

5.     They get their paychecks on time.  Yes – in prior jobs this was not the case.  Can you imagine the problem that caused for household cash flow?

6.     Chris asks them about  their families and he listens – doesn’t pretend to listen – he really listens

7.     He knows their career aspirations and encourages them to pursue them

8.     Because of #3-7, they feel respected.

By the way – Chris was not present when the above comments were shared.

In a separate conversation with Chris:

1.      He glowed with appreciation for the people on his team and shows this to them in a number of ways like monthly parties, performance bonuses and birthday treats.

2.     How does he find them?  He looks for positive, helpful people who want to learn.  An unusual selection twist –he checks references BEFORE interviewing candidates.  He says it saves him and the candidates time and disappointment.

3.     As for training and coaching, Chris uses Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as a foundation for his own work and encourages team members to do the same.

At the time, Chris had  just taken over the  Meadowmont Village store and wanted me to hear what manager Jon Reda was doing to build that team.   He called ahead so that Jon would be ready and waiting for me.

He wasn’t.   A co-worker said Jon was out and wasn’t sure when he’d be back.    She was very eager to help me in his place.  When I explained the reason for my visit, she said, “Oh!”, and told me where I could find him.

She was right.  I found him in the parking lot.  His head under the hood of a customer’s car that wouldn’t start.

Talking to me at that moment was the last thing he needed to do.  And it told me everything I needed to know.

I found out more anyway.

Months later on a  Wednesday, my son, Ryan, was in Atlanta and needed his passport by close of business on Tuesday.

Yma (EE-ma), who works at the Meadowmont Village store, said UPS ground would get the passport there in three days for $14.00.   Guaranteed.

Three days later, the passport wasn’t there.

UPS online tracking told us the package had been mis-routed but was back on track and would be delivered on Monday afternoon.

It  wasn’t.

Time to call Yma.   Ryan could go pick up the package.  He would meet the driver somewhere.  It didn’t matter.  He just had to have the package by the end of Tuesday which was now today.

Yma calmly and matter of factly jumped into action.  She made phone calls to Georgia, called me back,  gave me  choices and made more phone calls.  Somewhere in the middle of all of that she told me I would get a full refund, which was nice to know.  But at the time,  getting the passport was far more important.

Also important to note is that she didn’t have to  turn the problem over to Jon or Chris.  Nor did she have to consult with them first.  She  just jumped into action.

The passport arrived that afternoon.

The refund check arrived a few days later.

Weeks later, it was time to send another package.  This one not as time sensitive but after what happened last time, where would I go?

All businesses make mistakes.  Few fix their mistakes.   Of those, a very few fix them quickly.  And even fewer fix them without pressure.

So – actually it wasn’t even a question.  I went to  a place I knew had mastered mistake management.

Yma and Kim were working that day.

Three days later,  Kim called to tell me the package had been delivered and signed for by the intended recipient.

It didn’t matter so much this time so I wasn’t even counting.  But she was.


Proactive, reinforcing follow up – an impressive crowning touch.

And best I could tell –it all happened when the managers were away.


Thanks to Chris Derby and his team members for providing stellar demonstrations of  fine service, masterful mistake management, teamwork – and showing genuine concern for customers – internal and external.

And thanks to these team members (in alpha order by last name) for contributing to this article through actions, words or both:   Yma Benoit-Petit-Jeune, Chris Derby, Jarea Lawrence, Krystal Ragland, Jon Reda, Kim Surrett & Liz Tysor

For more info on the UPS stores mentioned here, use these links:

*Note: I invite you to print, post, share this favorite quote (big blue box) which has changed the lives of many  leaders, their team members and their customers.


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2 Responses to “Secrets of Success from UPS Stores”

  1. Nick Nickerson on October 12th, 2011 1:57 pm

    This is a great story about Chris, a terrific guy and manager. How do you get a story like this on local TV? Or CNN, or WSJ or NY Times or LA Times, or Good Morning America or YOUTUBE and have it go viral?? Does good news, good stories, good events like this ever go viral??

    Best….Nick Nickerson

  2. Jan on October 12th, 2011 2:54 pm

    Hi Nick –

    Yes he IS a terrific and manager.

    Would love to share this story on any of the media you mentioned.

    do you have an answer to your question of “how”?


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