One desperate customer. Two competing businesses. Two divergent approaches to customer service. Here’s how it all unfolded.
I had an interesting experience recently. I screwed up. I promised someone I would provide something for Thanksgiving gift baskets at their church, and then I forgot. By the time I remembered, I had needed it for the next day (and it wasn’t bread, so I couldn’t just wing it). It was a perishable product, and I know a couple of providers, so aside from not being able to give them advance warning, I didn’t really screw up.
I called the first provider and got their answering machine. During business hours. For a retail business.
The message went as follows:
“Thank you for calling. You have reached XYZ BUSINESS, and we can’t take your call because we are busy making our wonderful product. If you want to order for Thanksgiving, do so at the beep but orders after Friday are not guaranteed. We will have some product available for the holidays, but it is first come first served. BEEEEPPPPPPP.”
Sheesh. How many roadblocks are there in that message? I get a machine. I get an excuse for the machine. The message presumes my reason for calling. The message essentially tells me I am wrong for not having already placed my order in advance. Then it gives me more instructions while discouraging me. And, for the record, I am assuming there was a beep. I hung up right after “first come, first served.”
What next? I called the competitor. The owner answered the phone and here is what transpired.
Me: Dude, it’s Mike. I have screwed up and need some help.
Him: Sure. What do you need?
Me: An order of ABC by two p.m. tomorrow. Can you possibly cover for me?
Him: Of course. See you then.
Two different approaches to selling the same product. Two very different outcomes for me.
The takeaway is: what can we all do to make things easy for our customers? People have choices. People make choices. Business owners make certain choices, and customers make their choices in response. I have never understood why businesses make choices that tell customers they don’t want their business.
But, here is a twist. What if my characterization of the first business is wrong? What if the first provider I called was sitting down with a customer, giving them the same level of personal attention and service I ended up getting over the phone from their competitor down the street? Well, that changes things.
The point is, our behaviors and attitudes shape our business. Little things like how you structure your phone system speak volumes about how you value your relationship with your customers. What does your voicemail say? Look at your business through the eyes of your potential customer. What can you do to make every interaction more inviting?
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