In customer service the answer is, “Sure we can help you”

And, we are back! I have been away working on a couple of social media campaigns so as you have hopefully noticed, I haven’t posted anything here over the last couple of weeks. Now I am back. And I am ready to blog about my favourite topic, customer service.

On February 17th another blogger I follow, Chris Brogan wrote a thing about customer service. Titled  Good Service is Like a Great Steak, that blog post got me to thinking about customer service.

When I walk into a store it is usually because I have a “problem” of some sort that I need help with. The problem might be that I need new socks or a new shirt. It might be that my nemesis, the Orange Cat has puked up a hairball on my silk comforter. Perhaps I go into Home Depot because the toilet upstairs will not flush and my shaving brush is missing.  You get the idea. I’m not the type of guy who shopping as a leisure activity. I want to go in, get my problem solved and then return to base. Military precision.

So when I go into a store I do not want to hear someone say “no” we can’t do that. I honestly do not believe that is asking too much. The answer should always be, “sure, we can help you”. Perhaps that help is helping me find a replacement thingy or it might be directing me to a different store. Customer service training should emphasize the fact that store or restaurant clerks should learn that “no” is never (okay, rarely) the answer.

A couple of weeks ago I organized a little workshop for a group. Of course me being the kind of guy who says, “Oh shit, you mean they are going to want to eat lunch too?” I didn’t plan a lunch. No problem, I’ve got my list of favourite places to go and munch out, why I’m sure they will be happy to make us a little lunch box to go. After all, what small business doesn’t want fifteen new customers dropping in for lunch on a slow Monday?

I send my intern down to the shop to let them know that in three hours we will be joining them for lunch and that if they want, we could order ahead of time to make their day go a bit smoother.

My intern returns and says the shop cannot and will not do it. He was told that if we want a lunch catered we need to provide 48 hours notice and pre-pay and…

My turn to go to my favourite little sandwich shop. I go in, the chef is head down into his food prep, scowling like crazy, the woman on the till is looking worried…I take a read on the situation and say in my super-friendly way, “We just wanted to order some sandwiches. We do not need you to cater our lunch. We wanted to let you know ahead of time that we would be in for lunch today.”

The chef says, “I can’t do it. I need to order ahead of time and you didn’t give me any notice and…”

I interrupt with my terse reply, “Its okay, I had no idea it would be a problem for you to serve us lunch. We can and will go somewhere else.” And then I left.

A short time later he phoned my office and told my intern that he could do the lunch under the condition that we had to accept the variety of sandwiches he made and we had to pick it up at 11:45am. No changes.

The stupid thing is, that is all we wanted from the beginning. I tell you, I still love his sandwiches but it will take a long while before I darken the frame of his door again. Yes, the sandwiches were good (actually amazing) but I when I am walking into your business  with a problem and a fist full of cash, I expect the answer to be “Sure we can help you.”

 

2 Comments

  1. And, in this scenario, if you hadn’t sent your intern and you all just entered the establishment – maybe not even speaking to each other – this chef would have felt like his small business day had just gone to heaven. Fifteen paying customers in the line!

    I also feel compelled to say FIFTEEN in loud, bold, yelling letters. You weren’t trying to feed 100 people without notice.

    As for shopping, I’m a browser and a window shopper – often, when I enter your establishment I don’t “need” help, but I sure as heck don’t want to be ignored. I don’t want to feel like interrupting your conversation about the weekend is bad manners on my part. I certainly don’t want to know how much you “puked” this weekend or that, kind as this clerk’s intention was, that your co-worker’s husband is a horse’s ass and she’s well rid of him. Browsers return to spend their money in the places that had what they wanted and made them feel welcome and good about shopping there. Plus, it’s just plain good manners to be welcoming and discreet.

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