I know this sounds ridiculous but October seemed to be the month where retailers were determined to drive business away. Maybe it is just me but with third quarter economic growth just 2%, I’d think more businesses would be doing everything they could to get more customers. Frankly, I think many businesses are trying but something is clearly getting lost in the translation between owners and the front line customer service people. Here are a few examples.
My wife and I were out on a Saturday evening. It was about 5:40 PM and I called a new restaurant to ask if they had a 6:00 o’clock table. The person on the other end of the phone said she didn’t know how crowded it would be . . . they were expecting a lot of people very soon. She basically discouraged us from coming. They are new and I have never seen them that busy. Besides, this is fairly early dining on a Saturday. It was on the way home so we just swung by . . . they were half empty! We had a nice dinner but I still wonder what was going through her mind when she answered the phone?
The same weekend (on Sunday) we stopped by a local garden center. We had a coupon and were told it wasn’t good until Monday (it was in the fine print which I will admit that I rarely read). Ordinarily, I’d just say “OK” but the person went on to tell me I wasn’t the first customer to ask and that management knew everyone would want to use the coupon that weekend and decided it was better to say “no”. She then further proceeded to explain how they couldn’t take a $5.00 coupon a day early without reprogramming the computer system and how much work that would have been. I shook my head, made a $2 purchase (because it was something my four year old had selected and I didn’t want to disappoint him) and left $30 worth of flowers behind. I’m not sure why the employee felt she had to explain so much but I just couldn’t bring myself to patronize a business that intentionally made a decision which was adverse to the customer. I bought the flowers at a different garden center on the way home.
A local personal services company sent me an email offering a discount on a punch card. I don’t frequent them very often (which they actually mentioned in the email – they were trying to get me in the door more frequently). It was a nice email and a good offer so I decided that I’d stop in and buy the card the next time I was in the area. In theory, this is great for the business. They get cash up front and the card in my wallet is a constant reminder that I should patronize them (especially since I‘ve already paid for services). I stopped in to buy it. The person at the front desk said he had heard something about the email but didn’t really know the specifics of the deal. He suggested I go home, print the email and bring it back so he could honor it. Unbelievable. The owner sent out an email, actually got me to stop by with cash in my pocket, and the guy at the front desk turned me away. I’d still go there – but just haven’t been back. Shouldn’t they have taken my money when I offered it to them?
So, what’s the point? Make sure you understand how the people who interact with customers (or potential customers) are behaving. Are they doing everything possible to win business or acting like the people I mentioned above. Big companies “secret shop” their own stores. They do this for a reason. Are you driving business away?
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