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Get to know your customers today

October 16, 2012
Estherville Daily News

Today is Get to Know Your Customers Day, a great time to get up close and personal with the customers you serve.

So why? some may ask.

Well, just because it's good business.

Because customers talk to other potential customers. And if you want the business of those other potential customers, you need to treat the customers right that you already have.

So how do you do that?

That's easy enough. Put yourself in their place.

Large corporations already do this, of course. They'll send out 'secret shoppers' who test the waters, so to speak, and do just what a regular shopper does - shop around to see how they're treated as a customer. Was it a good shopping experience? Were their questions answered? Were their problems solved? If the store didn't have something, what did the sales clerk do. Say we don't have it - end of conversation - or send the customer down the street to a competitor who has it.

You'd be surprised by how many customers that go to Jones & Co. for something and are told that

they don't have it but that Smith & Co. does, will go ahead and go to Smith & Co. And the next time they need the same product or service, where do you think that customer will go? Well, odds are, it will be to Jones & Co. because that's where they got such great service.

And then there's the service after the sale. And we can think of some pretty good examples of lousy customer service:

n When a customer asked about dessert at one area restaurant, he was told that the restaurant didn't serve dessert because "they didn't want people sitting there all night taking up space." That was after a $50 meal.

n At another restaurant, in an East Coast city, the customer was finishing his tea when the owner told him to leave because he needed the table.

n At still another restaurant, our customer found four human hairs in his eggs - a great start on a wig, wouldn't you agree? Maybe Locks of Love should set up shop there.

n Our service-starved customer had also ordered a new car. The dealer drove it to his front door with a big smile, saying how great it drove. The customer didn't even want to get behind the wheel of the car, that new-car feeling vanishing as he thought of the dealer taking a joy ride in it right to his front door.

n By now, our service-deprived customer sent in a prepaid envelope for a service. The envelope was returned several weeks later with a note: We no longer process this particular product. The business also refused to give a refund. By the way, this was a business with whom our customer had spent $8,000 over the prior five years.

n At another business, our customer was asked if he would like to spend $20 on an extended warranty. "Hmm," our customer said. "What does that cover?" The customer was told that he could bring the product into the store anytime within the next two years and it would be fixed at no cost. Three months later, after the product failed, our customer brought the product in and was told to contact the manufacturer. Upon contacting the manufacturer, the customer was told it would cost $90 an hour for the repair department to look at it. "I thought it was covered under the extended warranty," the customer said.

"Sure. We'll fix it for nothing. But it still costs $90 an hour for us to look at it," the customer was told.

"But the item only cost $100," our customer said. "With the extended warranty, I'd actually be losing money."

"Well that was your choice, to buy that extended warranty," our customer was told.

"So are you saying the store robbed me when it sold me the extended warranty?" our customer asked.

"I didn't say that," the warranty department representative snapped. "And by the way, there's shipping on top of that."

So our customer took the product back to the store and set it on the counter and turned to leave.

"What do you want us to do with that?" the manager asked the customer.

"Every time you look at that, I want you to remember that I'm telling someone about your lousy customer service," said the customer. And that was the last time he entered that store. Ever.

Could any of these situations been handled differently? Absolutely. Would it have made for better customer loyalty? Absolutely.

Good customer service - which includes getting to know your customer and his or her wants, needs and desires - isn't just good public relations.

It's also plain good business.



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