Customer Service: Why It’s More Important Than You Think
Let’s begin by taking a walk down memory lane. I’m going to share with you a few recent experiences…
The Hardware Store
I was at one of those big box hardware stores.
Ready to check out, I headed to the front. Do you know what I found when I arrived? They had recently removed all standard cash registers and in their place was row after row of self–checkout stands.
You know what I’m talking about. Multiple checkout stations with one employee “watching” over all of them. This particular trip I had my daughters with me and a handful of items I needed to complete another day of remodeling my house.
I approached the scanner and began scanning my items and placing them on the scale. Just a few items in, the dreaded flashing red light turned on and the whole thing shut down, waiting for employee intervention. I turned around to find…no one.
My eyes started scanning across the store.
Then I found him. He was flirting with a fellow employee by the front door. I stood there and waited……
He suddenly looked over, put up a finger, and hollered: “Be there in a minute!”
I waited some more…a little more..and then finally, I gave up. I dropped the rest of my items on the floor and walked out the front door. My daughters were trailing behind, “Dad! Dad! What are you doing? You are so embarrassing!”
Embarrassing or not, I vowed to never give that store my business again, and made sure to tell all my friends about my horrible experience.
We went out to a restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
It was a party of 20 so we naturally had adjusted our expectations accordingly. (Ordering usually takes longer, refills don’t always come as quick as you’d like, etc.) We all found a seat, ordered our food, and waited. Eventually, the entrees started rolling out of the kitchen, and when the food parade came to an end, all but two had arrived. You can probably guess that one of them was mine. If so, you get a gold star. You’re right.
I waited patiently for a while longer, but it became clear that something was wrong. Other guests were enjoying the last few bites of their meal by this point and mine had yet to arrive.
I finally managed to flag down our server, and asked about the missing entrees. She looked just as befuddled so she went to get the manager. The manager immediately came over to apologize, saying that somehow the meals were never ordered.
So she put a rush on our entrees, and took the two meals off the check.
Sure, the two of us ate a little while after everyone was done. But, they made an effort to not only apologize sincerely, but to fix the problem by rushing the entrees and giving us the meals at no charge.
As the celebration was wrapping up later that night, the server and manager came over again and apologized. They truly seemed to care.
The Post-Experience Analysis…
The truth is, great customer service is rare these days. If something is screwed up, too often you just get a half-baked attempt at an apology, or in some cases, no apology at all. Of the two scenarios, who lost my business and who had me back?
Actually, the truth is that they both kept me. Within a few months of that first incident, those self-checkout stations were gone again. Good for them. Their customers mean something to them after all. And we were so impressed how the restaurant handled the situation, we couldn’t help but tell our friends about it.
So just how far should you go to take care of your customers? Is the customer scamming you? Will the customer really go somewhere else if you can’t please them? What would happen if you never responded to complaints or requests for a refund?
Don’t Let the 1% Make You Lose Sight of the Other 99%
Sadly, I have heard of many laundromat owners that see every refund request as the customer trying to get away with something. The truth is that 99% of people are not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. They just want to be taken care of and treated with respect. And customers that are taken care of tell their friends.
Think about it this way…how much is that dishonest 1% really going to cost you in the long run? Not much.
Something to keep in mind is that the other 99% of customers giving you word-of-mouth advertising can be one of the most effective ways to meet your income goals. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. (In fact, I’m reading it for the second time).
It is an excellent book on why customers buy, what makes them talk about your business, and the best methods to market your business or product. In the book, he asks who we trust the most when we hear about a product or service? Our friends, of course.
We always go above and beyond to take care of our customers. If they say they lost a dollar, we will give them two for the inconvenience. If they lose $4, we will give them the $4 back plus a couple extra to go towards their drying.
Amazingly, we have had many customers refuse the extra refund!
By going above and beyond, our hope is they will tell their friends about their experience. Because great customer service is rare, remember?
Is gaining even one new customer worth the cost of an extra dollar or two in refunds? You better believe it! A customer will spend an average of $500 – $1,000 a year in my store.
Take care of your customers. Listen to what they need, and not only meet it, but exceed it.
About Randy Dobbins
Randy is co-creator of Laundromats101.com, and owner of two laundromats in the Sacramento area. In his former life, he spent 25+ years in management across several industries, including commercial laundry. He’s a professed gadget geek and DIY wizard.
For more in-depth information, we’ve created The Laundromats 101 Complete Guide to Purchasing a Laundromat, which includes an entire chapter devoted to delivering stellar customer service while increasing profits.
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