Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Customer service (or the lack thereof)

Spent a couple hours last night in a planning meeting for some events scheduled locally for mid-June. As tends to happen in meetings, the group as a whole went wandering off on a number of tangents. One was Customer Service. The events being planned are meant to present a positive enough image of the local area that any tourists who are first-time visitors to the county will decide it's worth coming back here. Someone mentioned the MSU Extension Service does have a specialist who will present workshops on improving customer service. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have such a workshop for the local businesses so they could brush up on their customer relationship skills and figure out how to do things better?

Only one problem, as it turns out. The Chamber of Commerce and the local Tourism Association have tried to hold customer service workshops in the past. In fact, they had scheduled one for the previous month. Guess how many people signed up for it? Zip, zero, zilch. People might bitch about how badly their small businesses are doing, customer traffic is down, they're not getting repeat sales, etc., but somehow they never quite make the connection that the problem might be staring at them from the mirror. The people who need the training in customer service the most are the ones least likely to get it.


  1. Some days, I think it's a nearly universal truth that the people who most need to improve in something are the least likely to make an effort to improve in that thing.

  2. I'm planning an event for July in Montana, one of the parties is a woman (that I'm very fond of), this fact makes planning difficult.

    Four men can decide to go on a camping fishing trip on a certain date and simply show up on that date. Toss in a woman or two and plans just get complicated.

    But I'm not saying you are one of the women that are like that.

  3. One of the things I've repeatedly pointed out on my own blog is that most of the small town businesses driven out of business by Wal-Mart *deserved* to be driven out of business, because their owners treated their customers like cr*p, stocking what the owner felt like stocking rather than what the customers wanted, being surly to customers, arbitrarily closing at times that customers needed to shop, and otherwise not providing the sort of customer service needed to justify shopping there rather than at Wal-Mart. If you have stores with good customer service they usually survive Wal-Mart because Wal-Mart does have good inventory and is open hours that people need to shop, but their customer service is otherwise crap.

    Sadly, a lot of these small businesses claim they simply can't afford to provide good customer service, when the reality is that they can't afford *not* to provide good customer service. Because Wal-Mart is out there, folks. You can either provide good customer service, or be out of business. That's just how it is.

    - Badtux the Commerce Penguin

  4. Customer service is just common sense. Our little town has a Wal-Mart but our small stores are thriving. These stores have community people offering products or convenience that Wal-Mart doesn't offer and are genuinely appreciative of the our business.

    I agree that if you open a hamburger stand next door to McDonald's you probably should not be surprised when you can't make it pay.

    You can't fight Wal-Mart. If your local small businesses are to thrive they must be uniquely local.

    I remember working in my uncles store back in the stone age when I was a kid, and I was told to always say 'Thank you for your business and come again.'
    the Ol'Buzzard

  5. A Country Western store will do well next to a Walmart.

  6. Actually, Ol' Buzzard, you can indeed open a hamburger stand next to McDonald's and thrive -- *IF* you provide quality and service that McDonald's doesn't provide. Fresh-ground meat rather than pink slime, good-quality fresh-baked buns rather than steamed mush, a choice of toppings in a salad-bar-like setting rather than a limp piece of lettuce and splash of mustard, milkshakes made out of real ice cream and fruit and milk rather than out of chemical vats, french fries made from real potatoes on the spot rather than frozen formed fries that aren't mush only because they were fried in hot oil to harden the mush, a proprietor who is friendly and knows your name, etc. all allow a small-town hamburger joint to out-compete McDonald's. But if you were trying to provide the same (low) quality as McDonalds? Fughetabout it.

    But here's an example of a store that didn't out-compete Wal-Mart. The small town I'm thinking of had a dry goods store. You probably don't know what that is, but it sold things like cloth, clothing, and sewing supplies. The problem is, the proprietor operated the store on a 9 to 5 basis, meaning that most of his potential customers couldn't get there while it was open, and he stocked what he felt like stocking (typically styles that fell out of fashion a decade ago) rather than current styles and fashions. Wal-Mart came to town and was open until midnight and had a continually changing inventory of reasonably fashionable clothing (by comparison). He was out of business within months. Good riddance.

    - Badtux the former Small Town Penguin

  7. It is my biggest peeve with business these days. There is so much lip service about customer service but no one is trained to actually offer it.

    And even compnies I have contact with which have really good employees don't hire enough of them for their volume so I wait 20 minutes or more to get through on the phone and days for an e-mail response!


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