The other day I was driving down a block that used to have two businesses that both represented bad customer service examples for me. I say "used to" because one of them is now out of business.
The first was a pretty good restaurant that was across the street from both its own parking lot and another more popular restaurant. A man (the manager? owner?) used to stand by the restaurant door specifically to watch for people who might park in his restaurant's lot and go to the other restaurant instead. His Three Billy Goats Gruff approach to parking lot guarding obviously didn't help because the restaurant is now closed.
It occurred to me that instead of balefully glaring at people parking in the restaurant lot, what if the same guy had stood at the entrance to the lot every weekday at lunchtime with a handful of flyers listing the daily specials? He could have been the outdoor greeter, meeting each group and welcoming them to his restaurant with helpful recommendations for a tasty lunch. If that had been his approach, maybe the restaurant might still be in business today.
The other business is a coffee shop that's adjacent to several office buildings. Someone I know once walked to the coffee shop from his office, trailed by a co-worker who didn't wish to break off the conversation they'd been having. The first guy purchased a coffee and sat down, joined by his co-worker who had absentmindedly brought in the bottle of soda he'd been drinking at work. A coffee shop employee proceeded to loudly berate the guy with the soda for his gall at bringing in an outside drink. The whole experience was horrible and awkward, and not only have both customers stopped going there, they've told many friends (including me) who have also stopped patronizing the coffee shop. (To be honest, I didn't like them anyway because their coffee was pretty terrible.)
Here's a thought: what if the woman at the coffee shop had instead said, "That bottle has to be getting warm. Here's a cup of ice." No upsell, no bitterness at not making a sale. Just a thoughtful gesture that might have changed the story from "I'll never go there again" to "I'm definitely coming back tomorrow."
You'll notice that neither of my suggestions involved much in the way of cost. The primary change was in attitude.
I imagine both negative experiences resulted from desperation on the part of the businesses in question. That's why customer service needs to be an integral part of a company's philosophy and culture from day one. I'm not saying that's an easy thing to achieve, but it's certainly a worthy goal to strive for.
Service is one of my primary considerations when it comes to patronizing a particular business. Bad service has caused me to permanently remove certain places from my consideration list and great service has caused me to follow my favorite business owners, managers and waiters all over town.
What do you think?