Monday, April 05, 2010

What Message Are You Giving Your Customers

I snapped this picture recently at one of the coffee shops I frequent for early morning meetings.  I was fourth in line on the particular day I noticed this very obvious attempt by the young woman behind the cash register to solicit tips.  After snapping this picture I wondered if it would have any effect on customer behavior.  Would they or would they not respond to the demand?

I noticed a couple of things.  Each customer's order was taken by the girl behind the cash register with a tired, clearly sleep deprived "Good morning, what can I get you?"  After she took each order she continued on with the conversation she was clearly having about last night's festivities with the barrista.  Both her tone and energy clearly showed that her interaction with the customer was viewed more as an inconvenience to their conversation than anything else.

Not one single person dropped a tip in the jar.

When it was my turn to order I quickly ordered the simplest most mundane thing they had on their menu: large coffee, black, no "room."  She filled my order barely looking up, now looking at the text that had come into her cell phone.  I handed her my money and for giggles dropped a shiny new dollar in their little tip cup with a joking, "Don't want to get hit now do I?"

She barely smiled, clearly annoyed by my interruption of her text, and said looking over her shoulder at the barrista, "Well look at that, not everyone's a cheapskate.  See I told you Lori that sign would make a difference." 

No thank you.  No other acknowledgment.  Just a sarcastic comment about the other customers.

It made a difference alright.

I was fascinated that no one had ever trained these girls better than that.  I grabbed my coffee and rather than pull our my laptop out and do some work I decided to just sit there and watch and learn.  In the time it took me to finish my coffee seventeen customers came and went (yes I counted them - don't laugh it was fun!).  One woman dropped a few coins in their cup but other than that, no one else tipped.  Thankfully. 

Now I could have gone up there to preach to these girls why they have to try and make demands for tips and why that strategy clearly wasn't working.  I could have gone up there and taught them in five minutes more about customer service than their boss or shop owner clearly had in the entire time they had been employed there.  I could have gotten angry about the situation and elected to give them both a big piece of my mind about their rude behavior towards me and my fellow patrons.

But I didn't. 

In fact I didn't say a thing about it.  I just decided right then and there that I would never go back there again.  In directly I voted with my dollars.  A coffee shop that probably used to get thirty bucks of my money every month just lost a customer  (a $ 300 annual customer!) who quietly shook his head in disbelief and became determined to invest both time and money elsewhere.

I bring this to your attention my fine friends because I have to ask what message you and your company are giving your customers?  Clearly most of us don't try and hold our customers hostage for tips with such an overt display but have you thought you might be doing something just as bad?  For example:

1. Do you answer the phone on the first or second ring with a personable greeting?
2. Do you have someone dealing with the customers that display personality, friendliness and a willingness to help.
3. Do you return emails, voice mails and customer inquiries with a sense of urgency?
4. Do you treat each customer as gold regardless how much they spend with your company?
5. Does everyone at your company know that the customer is the single reason everyone at your company is employed?
6. Does your company take the time to get inside the mind of your customers to make sure that your company is offering everything your customers may want or expect?
7. Do you insure that customer service is not just a overused business term but part of the company culture?
8. Do you take into account the messages that you and your team are communicating to your customers?

We could spend hours literally talking about customer service and of course how different your job is from our little friends at the coffee shop.  Let's just say regardless of what kind of company you work for, the customer experience isn't all that different from theirs.  There are multiple touch points - opportunities to positively or negatively influence the customer's perspective of their experience.  We all have them.  The real question is do you know what they are and what message your customer takes away from them when they happen?

If not...maybe you should?

Because just like me your customers are voting with their dollars too. 

Ripple On!!!

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1 comment:

Sue said...

Wow, good call. That said, if you were their boss, wouldn't you want to know if one of your customers was leaving and why? I think you should at least send a copy of this entry to the big man.

The other day I was in a local gas station and the ladies behind the counter were so kind that I just blurted out "Happy Friday!" to them, and they burst out laughing with delight. "Did you hear what she said? Happy Friday! That's so awesome!" :-D