Fish: Keeping 'em happy

Posted

There's an old saying: "The customer is always right."

If you are in the business of relying on the public for your income because you own some level of a brick-and-mortar shop, then you only have one commandment, and that's it or at least it should be.

Over the course of my life, I've watched businesses come and go, I've watched some fail because honestly they were truly horrible ideas, and I've watched others fail because they weren't keeping up with the times. But the ones that I've seen fail because their customer service finally wore down their customer base, well those are the ones that truly annoy me. These are the ones that are completely preventable. Currently, I've got a few businesses on my watch list because of poor service and customer service, and frankly there is no excuse for it. When you have a customer, that is your form of income, this is how you've chosen to make your living. Ergo, the customer is always right ... especially when they are wrong.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we owned a restaurant. Our front line people were made to understand that when someone walked through that door they were to have the best possible experience that we could provide. If we could not provide them with the best, we made sure they didn't notice it. But if they did notice it, we made it right, right there on the spot.

For those of you that have never owned or even worked in a restaurant, let me tell you, it's one tough business. As an owner, you are chained to the business with no hope of escape. If you are lucky enough to get employees that show up to work every day, you guard them like gold. Every aspect will tax your very last nerve, so when a customer sends his or her food back for the third time (even though there was nothing wrong with it), they are right. In our restaurant, if they sent back food more than once we bought them a drink. It's critical to take any negatives and turn them into positives as quickly as you can. Your livelihood depends on it.

But I'm not just speaking about the restaurant business. Folks in retail sales get beat up every single day. Their job is certainly a thankless one and I imagine the burnout ratio has to be high. But at the end of the day, they opened this shop because it's something they wanted to do. So when a belligerent customer walks through the door asking why you don't have it in red and states that they can get it online for $5 less with free shipping, you have to swallow hard and acknowledge that the customer is always right.

What about that person that has been doing business somewhere for 100 years? I know it sounds crazy, but a negative experience will push that person away from your business to make their purchases elsewhere and frankly, you can't have that.

Then, in the full scope, involving the king and queen customer base, there's the internet. Not necessarily to buy cheaper, but to rate and review you; things that can make or break your business. I remember reading an article about online ratings. It said that you can have 100 excellent reviews and one really bad one and the single bad review will sink you. Yes, grossly unfair; after all you can't please everyone, but everyone can get access to the internet with the sole intention of trying to tear you down.

So what do you do? Pretty simple, and it's fairly common knowledge stuff: Just be nice and do your level best to use common sense and most people will leave your store happy ... no matter how wrong they are. What the hell is up with that?

Fish is the opinionated morning jock on Classic Hits 92.7. He offers up his opinion at 7:50 a.m. every morning (Monday through Friday). Let's start the revolution. E-mail him at fish@wkvt.com.


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