Customers: treat them right or get left

I recently started my quest for physical fitness and that seemingly elusive washboard stomach with 6 pack abs (vain..maybe, but if I’m gonna be healthy, I may as well go for the perks as well). All my research and consultations pointed to the fact that “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym”. Being a busy young professional with several projects and pursuits, I  very seldom have the time to make a home cooked meal (I have justified many years of spend on eating out by the diseconomies of scale of cooking for one). This led to me scouring the local food service landscape for a decent quality, good tasting and affordable restaurant (I need value for money, savings are important)with healthy food offerings. This proved to be a fun and exhilarating process for a self professed foodie. My weeks of painstaking testing (I take culinary research seriously) paid off and I hit pay dirt; or so I thought then. I found a family operated little grill and sports bar which specializes in grilled meats, roasted organic ground provisions, farm fresh garden salads and other healthy eats.

For days I was in bliss, trying different elements of the menu. Within a week I had selected my favorite combination: BBQ-Jerked chicken breast and roasted sweet potatoes; but my kicker was the fresh garden salad (I couldn’t figure out how they kept the lettuce so crisp, got the tomatoes such bright red and the carrots so sweet). Having started calling in to order, I developed a rapport and could have my order recited and fulfilled upon just the sound of my voice and hearing my name. I was happy. I was also very proud to be supporting a local business providing a quality product.

By week two, my new found romance began to unravel, as having now gone through the process of wooing me into this gastric love affair, my once attentive Belle had begun to show her true colors. My calls to preorder my meals were now greeted with a cavalier demeanor and worse the engagement of the much dreaded “Negatory Mode”. You know that mode once it has been activated by the easily discernible proclivity for saying things like: “No, I don’t think so”, “I’m not sure that’s possible”, “Maybe not”. Employees at some businesses apparently believe that its is your job as a paying patron to make their jobs easier. “How dare you interrupt my day’s flow?”. I called to order my heaven-sent, yet premium priced salad only to hear that “I’m not sure you can get that today, I’d have to check”. This of course was followed by a notably lengthy pause almost implying that I should understand her plight with having to make the impossible 3 feet trek to check with the chef to validate the salad’s availability. This pause was broken and she was spurned to action only after I exclaimed quizzically “ok, can you check for me please?”. Resignedly the call was placed on hold so the check could be made. Upon resumption, I was informed that I “should be able to get it”. Not wanting to cause further distress, I decided to visit in person to place my order. Maybe after seeing that it was me, their newest, biggest fan, waiting to spread the news of my new found love I might be regarded with better treatment. This was not to be. Upon arriving, and querying about the salad I could now see that “Negatory Mode” had not only been engaged but was turned up to max power. “I don’t think you can get that you know”. In stoic disbelief, I looked on and listened as I was told of all the plights of working in a restaurant. Due to all the orders the chef had churned out earlier, he would not be able to tend to my order, though the restaurant was now close to empty. Upon advising that I would be ok with waiting, I was told that “it would be best if you order something else or come back later”. That was enough for me, my years of dating had taught me to read the early warning signs. This romance had met an untimely end.

stick_man_confused

I left my once new favorite restaurant that evening feeling dejected and dare I say pissed. I had referred several friends and had been touting them about the health benefits of the offerings on the menu and why it pays to eat organic. This was a major let down. I wanted to now start a campaign against them. My campaign would have to wait though, hunger was calling me by name. After doing a couple rounds around nearby malls, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that a nearby fast food restaurant with a very attractively packaged salad comprised of all the ingredients of the salad from my now ex-favourite new restaurant. Whilst, I could not vouch for whether the veggies were organic, it was tasty, came with options for toppings and was half the price to boot (See actual pic attached). With that I had made the switch. I guess my most recent belle wasn’t as special as I thought.

salad

 

Looking back at this simple yet resounding situation I decided to note the key learnings. Here are a few which resonated:

  • The customer comes first– they seldom care if you are having a bad day, handled a 100 before, each exchange is a new one and should be regarded with the utmost respect and attention.
  • Disengage “Negatory Mode”– kick start that general can do attitude. Resolve in your mind that you will take a request as far as is possible to meet a customer need. Very often people will value the effort even if the answer ultimately comes back a no. “No” should never be the default/ initial disposition and response. This is how loyal customers are created.
  • Consistency is key– fickle creatures we are; thanks to recency you are as good as your last interaction with humans. Save for family, people are not tolerant of inconsistent behavior and certainly not inconsistent service levels when spending our hard earned dollars.
  • Keep your customers’ blinders on– the minute you send them looking to your competitor, you stand a good chance of losing them forever. Do your best to ensure that you are all they see.

Building a profitable business is a difficult pursuit. 95% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years and 95% of those left fail within the following 5 years. Many companies spend millions attracting new customers. Due care should be taken to ensure that those budding new romances mature into loyal customer relationships. Customers are a needy bunch, “Treat us right, or get left”.

Can you relate? Have you had a similar experience? Leave a comment or question below..

 

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13 thoughts on “Customers: treat them right or get left

  1. And this sums up Jamaica’s customer service. Another way you know it’s time to leave is when the person who takes the orders either starts (1) flirting with you because they thought you were being more than polite or (2) start telling you their personal problems..for a ‘tip’. It is always the reason why Jamaican businesses who have much to offer fall by the wayside and why other businesses who do the same thing (usually not as good and overpriced) have a higher chance of staying afloat because their customer service is usually better.

    Good to see someone shares one of my biggest pet peeves in Jamaica’s (especially food) service.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definately experienced these and many other awful experiences particularly in some the wholesales and stores.
    Sad to say but it would seem like this is expected should you dare venture to these establishment.

    Good article.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being able to relate to many of what you mentioned, i know exactly how frusteating it is. In any event good customer service is paramount and pivotal in any service industry and the best foot should always be placed forward by the member of staff, that will create balance and often times better customer-worker relation. Also, i am still of the personal belief that the customer is NOT ALWAYS RIGHT and also that they DONT ALWAYS COME FIRST. We have very terrible customers out there-me sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi DB, correct- “good customer service is paramount”. Whilst the customer may not always be right, it is certainly not the role of businesses to correct them and place them in check.. Business owners do not have the luxury of fighting fire with fire. Even the most obnoxious customer has the potential to be converted to a true loyalist and brand ambassador. Each exchange should be regarded as such.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. While “the customer is not always right”, it is not my remit to point it out. Offering good service ensures continuance and potential growth.

    In Jamaica though businesses (especially small businesses) get into a comfort zone way too early and start to ignore what is most important – growth and profit (you expected good customer service right ?) To achieve the desired growth you need to maintain those customers you currently have and get those you don’t. You can do this with exceptional customer service, Jamaicans need constant training though to accomplish this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dale.. Thanks for your feedback. You have made some very salient points. Business owners large or small should never get in a comfort zone. Customers are the reason for existence not an added burden to attend to. Looking forward to hearing from you on other posts.

      Like

  5. I have found that even the most obnoxious customer can be converted when you meet sarcasm with respect and exceptional customer service. While “the customer is not always right”, it’s not my job to point that out.

    Businesses in Jamaica become comfortable too quickly and start to ignore what is most important, continued growth and profit. (You expected good customer service right ?) Keeping your current customers and attracting new customers will ensure continued growth and profit and this will be achieved by offering exceptional customer service.

    Liked by 1 person

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