Some months back I looked after a friend’s facebook business page while he was away on a trip. Annoyingly my updates on his page got a lot of interaction- unlike mine. I pondered on the possible reasons. Our businesses are very different and we serve a different audience, yet here I was doing better with his audience than I did with mine. I asked God what was missing,
It turned out that I understood his clients better than I understood mine because as a small business owner I was his ideal client. I knew my needs and understood my thought processes & challenges. In business we are always told to ‘get into the mind of your customer’. I find that to be a challenge because I grew up in Nigeria where the concept of a themed kids bedroom meant enough plastic boxes for your Lego pieces, I did not grow up with a luxury bedroom and playroom. I felt I didn’t truly understand the mind of my customers.
A couple of weeks later had the opportunity to work as a temp in a store I had tried for years to get into. They are the hallmark of British Luxury and it was the perfect opportunity to become acquainted with customer service in the luxury goods sector. I dealt with the wierd and the wonderful. Adults who flew into a rage over late deliveries, women in hysterics because an item was out of stock, I even had one customer pass me first to her husband, and then their son who was introduced to me as a lawyer, they were going to sue the company for a late delivery, and there was that news presenter who was breathing heavily and on the verge of tears. Over some bottles of wine. I was of course baffled that well-heeled respectable people in society would throw tantrums over Christmas gifts and food. I just didn’t get it. Until today.
I had a rough day and at the last minute went to the beauty shop to get my nails done. I was to do so while lounging on a massage chair. Not the same as human hands but it was sufficient. I was shown to my chair, one of only two massage chairs. I placed my bag next to it and went off to hang up my coat. By the time I arrived back my chair had become occupied by another customer who came in after me, my bag had also been moved. I found it odd and asked one of the staff why I was moved, she pointed to the owner and mumbled something incoherent. I thought nothing of it. This new customer then began conversing excitedly in Chinese with the owner of the shop and her assistants. I asked for the controls of the chair. I was told the chair was faulty and the massage function wasn’t working. I looked over to the other chair and realised that one was working fine. I was bumped into a faulty chair for the sake of a favourite customer. I was treated badly. Now it takes a lot to push my buttons to the point where I’ll complain to the agitator, I surprised myself by pulling up the boss and telling her what she did was wrong and unacceptable. She tried to give an excuse about the chair being faulty. I was livid and I only got angrier by the minute. I didn’t lose my cool & I won’t go into my subsequent conversations but in the end I told the her she’ll be getting a very bad review from me. Her response?
“Why would you do that? You’ve been here lots of times and we always give you a good service.”
I was obviously supposed to travel back in time and claw back the good feelings I had from some expired good service, and then use it as balm to soothe my irritation.
I learned some important lessons.
The Customer is Always Right
Now I get it. It doesn’t matter how right you as the business owner feels, the customer’s feelings are more right than yours, even if her feelings are not warranted. Emotions are very real and if I feel unhappy about something, no one has the right to tell me I have chosen to exercise the wrong emotion. I am reminded of a situation we had with a customer in the Middle East, we made a mistake on the paperwork and it ended up costing the client time and inconvenience. I struggled to understand why he wanted compensation, aftreall he did not overpay for the service he recieved, it took a while for me to understand that his expectation and the reality were miles apart. It isn’t always about money, the emotions are more valuable than cash.
It’s not about you
At the nail shop I felt disregarded, my opinion had no place. I was supposed to put up and shut up. She seemed more interested in proving her rightness, than in making me satisfied. She argued with me on every point I raised and I would have been satisfied with a simple, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that”. In relationships, couples are often told it isn’t about who’s right or wrong, and there are various endings to that quote. Again with my Middle Eastern customer my focus the entire time before I saw the light was in pointing out that we did nothing wrong. It was all about our position and I didn’t consider how he felt.
Treat your Customers Equally
Another lesson I learned was all customers should be viewed as Very Important People. The woman who took my seat was without doubt more important than me, which perhaps is true if she spends more money there than I do. Getting her hirsuite body completely waxed I’m sure isn’t cheap- sorry I digress, but the hairball should not have been shoved up my nose. A customer may earn your business more money and it makes sense to take care of them, but you shouldn’t announce the fact to the other customers.
Put yourself in their Shoes
I am thankful that in the end I didn’t lose out even though I paid for the premium service against my wish. I learned some valuable business lessons which will serve me well in my business. She refused to charge me the standard rate arguing that it was ‘only a machine’. I schooled her on what my day had been like, a horrid one that I wanted to turn around by sitting down for a spa pedicure with mechanical, albeit barely effective massage, so it was not ‘just a machine’ to me. It was an experience that would have gone a small way towards undoing some of the knots in my shoulders. I’ll point out that my disappointment had little to do with a faulty machine and more to do with being bumped. She had the chance to make me leave happy, but I left enraged.
Leave a good Impression
A good impression is often used to describe the external or tangible assets that you are contracted to give in exchange for payment, such as branding, good service or products etc. But you also want your clients to associate your business with warm feelings of contentment, not irritation and regret that they met you. Every contact with a client gives us the opportunity to leave them with a positive vibe. And that’s every contact, even if they don’t end up making a purchase.
I teach my boys that there is always a lesson hidden in a challenge so they must search until they find it. As angry as I was, I picked up several and for that I am immensely thankful to the nail shop for the short course on How not to Treat your Customers.
Please follow and like us: