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I didn't make this story up, I promise you. I didn't have to, because truth is *always* better than fiction.
The other day, I was waiting in line (for once, I was first, can you believe it!) for a local store to open so that I could exchange a defective Christmas present.
As is sometimes the case, I got to talking with another fellow, also waiting patiently (have you noticed how often customers have to wait, even to *buy* something these days? But, that's another story!)
Jim (he introduced himself) and I started to exchange horror stories, of the type that *every* shopper encounters just about every day, y'know what I mean?
Seems like Jim had just come from the freeway and had turned into one of those very famous fast-food chains, on the service road.
You've seen 'em, but no need to mention names here.
Now, this was at quarter to eight in the morning, so all the shops were pretty much deserted (I live in a pretty quiet town, a ways north of Brisbane), except for this big hamburger joint. It also *looked* unattended, but had a big sign - "NOW OPEN" - up high, and stretched between two large poles placed at each end of the store - easily seen for a hundred yards or more.
Jim needed a bite to eat, so what more was needed?
He turned his car into the drive-thru and went to the order window. "We're not open" the woman replied when Jim tried to place his order.
Well, he looked at her, looked up at the big sign, and asked her to define "NOW OPEN", seeing as how she was telling him that the place wasn't. "Lookit, it's a new location here, for us, so, yeah, we're NOW OPEN for business, but not until 9AM, OK!"
(Actually, I *knew* that the place had been NOW OPEN for three weeks or more, but I didn't interrupt Jim's account).
Jim ponders that for a few moments, then asks her, "Well, y'see, me and the wife here have been travelling a ways to get here, couldn't you make an exception?" He could see inside that the staff were getting ready for the day's operations.
The manager (for that's was she was *supposed* to be) shook her head, "No, you'll have to come back later, when we're open." She shakes her emphatically, obviously trying to get Jim out of her mind. Jim looked up at the big sign again, and decided to give her another chance.
"OK, how about this - you give me a voucher for a little freebie, and I'll be back at 9AM?" Now, Jim wasn't at all sure that he'd be in the running, but thought he'd try it on, y'know. Well, the manager just shook her head like it was fit to fall off. "No way, sir, I'm afraid I can't do that, you'll just have to get back here later, like everybody else, hmmhmm!"
When Jim finished telling me this, we had a good chuckle about how people so easily ruin a good business, and all because so many take the short term view. That manager could have had a customer for life if she'd even offered Jim *personal* service at 9AM. He was prepared to return for good service, but *only* good service!
(Hey, hamburger joints are practically viral, right?)
"Heck", said Jim, "she didn't even have to throw in a freebie, but if she'd said that she would have personally attended to my wants, I would've gone back there, yessir!" He grinned, "But, now of course, I've told you about this experience - would you go there for a hamburger now?"
I didn't muddy the waters by telling Jim that I detested all hamburgers, but I did readily agree that there are so many lost opportunities in customer relations.
For starters, that burger manager didn't quite have the right information on display; the information was too easily misinterpreted or wrong. Secondly, she had a golden opportunity for a lifetime customer, when Jim persisted in trying to buy her product. And, finally, not content with *one* refusal, she *totally* deep-sixes her credibility when Jim tried - a second time - to change her mind.
Ultimately to no avail, leaving Jim shaking his head as he drove away...
Now remember, this is a *service* industry we're talking about here, where the customer is *always* right...right? Would you deal with a company that had the wrong information and the wrong attitude?
Maybe Jim *did* hit the burger stand at a bad(?) time, but it doesn't matter what time a customer fronts up: you'd better be ready to send that customer away satisfied *and* begging to come back again. If you don't, you're just wasting your time.
And, now that *you* have a website - or you're preparing one - your golden opportunities have just increased a million fold or more! You won't win all the customers, but just try to make sure that the ones you *do* win always want to come back for more.
(Oh, yeah - Jim went down the road a bit further to the competition, of course.)
Roger Burke has been involved with computers since 1967, and has managed to break quite a few, over the years. He, and his wife Sherry, are now actively engaged in online self-publishing and promoting specific affiliate programs at http://online-wealth.com . If you have any comments or questions about this article, please send emails to mailto:email@example.com . Copyright 2001, Online-Wealth. All rights reserved.