Owning a business is more than a full-time job — it often becomes a significant part of one’s entire life, from their relationships to family to friends. And since the heart of any business is customers, its often surprising to experience how little attention is paid to providing the best customer experience possible.
There’s an expression that it’s not what happens, it’s how you handle it. And that applies to many facets of life, but especially to customer service. For instance, a local burger location was called when a pair of customers experienced food poisoning from eating their turkey burgers one Sunday evening. (Yes, one person became violently ill).
The next morning, a phone call was placed, and the automated system to speak to a human in the office states ‘the person you’re trying to reach is unavailable’ and immediately beeps for voicemail. Upon leaving a voicemail of the problem on Monday, there was no phone call returned. After leaving a second voicemail on Tuesday, still no return phone call. Wednesday and Thursday passed with no customer contact.
Friday the customer walked in the business to speak to an owner to inform them there were apparently 2 issues, one with kitchen prep and the other with being non-responsive to customers. After being told by one person that the owners were in an outside meeting – and then that they weren’t available, a polite Assistant Manager was dispatched to deal with the issue. After empathetically listening, she apologized and said she was processing a full refund for the tab, provided 2 free burger coupons, and hoped for the best.
I’m guessing at this point you’re thinking this is not the way customer service should be handled. But what about restaurants that charge a $2+ upcharge for a ‘salad’ instead of a different side-dish? We all know that the hand-grab inside the prepared salad bag is a) cheap and b) saves labor prep-time to slap on the plate. So why insult customers or create a negative waitperson discussion just to get an extra $2+ from a patron?
Say what you’d like about ‘chains’ or ‘big business’ — but keep in mind that the ‘restaurant’ chain with the highest level of customer satisfaction nationally — is Chick-fil-A. Despite how one feels about their political or religious views, the company has made a solid commitment to customer service, training people and handling every issue with the care and respect that a paying customer deserves.
Contrast that with other chain businesses. For instance, a large ‘electronics store’ in the area refused to refund a customer the full amount when returning a defective travel mug within 30 days. Instead, they said ‘our policy is 14 days, so we can either issue a store credit, or replace the item.’ When a customer experiences a defective item, they likely don’t trust the item, and don’t want a replacement, as there are many other options in the market.
When challenged by the customer, the salesperson just repeated ‘that’s our policy, we can’t do any better than that’ — which is true, and very sad. Can’t do better than that? The chain still sells the item, so returns are standard practice in that industry for returning defective items to the manufactured.
If you can’t do better than this for customer service, perhaps you shouldn’t own a business at all. Customers have choices, which is why many shop on Amazon and/or give their loyalty to businesses that care.
Ron Kustek is a business instructor at Cabrillo College. email@example.com