Small Business Lounge
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It never surprises me when I walk into a business as a customer and I am less than satisfied. It is slowly becoming the 'normal'. It's almost as if all the businesses in the world are working together to ensure we set our expectations lower than what we truly feel is accommodating. I'm kidding of course, I don't really believe that, but I think it should help illustrate my point quite effectively because sometimes it just make me want to scream, stop bad customer service!!
How many times have you found yourself walking into an independently owned store and you're just not satisfied with the way things happened? While large corporations have their own set of issues, they've been able to master the customers expectations by knowing the importance of great customer service and they typically offer a professional experience, even though they too, sometimes fall short. I'm referring to the small mom and pops diner, or bar or retail store. There seems to be a different set of rules when you walk in there. This continues to be one of the largest gaps between a corporate experience like a Chilis or Olive Garden and a mom and pops experience like your local breakfast joint right down the road.
What I've found to be a truth is the owner is too close to their money and their process. Don't get me wrong, knowing your numbers is critical to the success of your business, but that isn't what I am referring to, I'm referring to how to stop bad customer service while still growing your business. They've mastered the simple process of business so they can distribute whatever goods they are offering but haven't explored the deep roots of running a business which introduce longevity and growth. What is that simple process I'm referring to? The simple transaction sequence, the business, the product, the customer, the sale. how much does it cost to make this product? how much will I sell it for? when will i open and close my doors? how much is rent and electric? They understand the standardized elements of running a business. but they have no intelligence regarding research and develop, monitoring patterns, understanding customer retention, accounting for return ratio's or how to truly handle customer complaints. I've literally had restaurant owners walk up to me and tell me that my complaint about their food was not accurate and they wouldn't be doing anything to fix the issue. I've also had manager's tell me they couldn't serve me a drink because they've already began shutting down for the night (an entire hour early) because no one was there. I was there! and so was another couple. What she meant to say was "not enough people were there" and even that theory strikes me as unacceptable.
These small or medium stores, restaurants, hotels, or any other retail brick and mortar represent a great thing. A way to stay connected to our roots without having to always succumb to the giants of their industry. Don't get me wrong, the giants have their place, they offer great rates and a convenience factor that isn't often present in smaller companies. But why should we also sacrifice our expectation of service when going to a mom and pops restaurant? Typically, rates are higher because they're not producing high enough quantities to allow for an efficient discount, or their process isn't as efficient as it could be. Are we to really spend more money and get worse service? I think not. Success in a business relies on understanding the customers needs and wants BEFORE they come through your doors, so you can account for them, be prepared, and prove to the customer that they are your bread and butter, when they're asking you for bread and butter with their meal.
This message might find its followers who agree with it as consumers, customers or guests, but I wrote it for the small business owners. It's time to spend some time treating your customer like the Kings and Queens they want to feel like and stop bad customer service. Maintain a professional atmosphere, recognize their value and do what it takes to accommodate their desires. Learn about your customer, do you know what your precise demographic is? do you know what you want it to be? What does your customer want and why? how should they be treated verses how they are being treated? Be prepared to lose the cost of meal to make a customer happy and realize that it in turn makes them feel warm and fuzzy and they come back twice a month for the rest of their lives, or they bring in groups and speak highly of your customer service. Be prepared to factor in the cost of staff while its slow during a Wednesday instead of shutting the doors an hour early because you think you're saving hourly rates on your staff when in reality you're disappointing the customers who just wanted a drink after work in the last hour you were open and now they won't come there because your business hours say one thing but your doors are shut before the time. These things appear to save your company cost but its a hidden monster that leaves customers wishing they had just gone somewhere else. You have to recognize the lasting effect a negative experience has on a person and compare it up against your true bottom line. Your company should always be about growing or at least maintaining your numbers. Not focusing on the customer experience will always, without fail, decrease your earning potential.
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