13231979784_90ca865d8a_zWhen we had our retail store in Temecula, California,  it was our first long-term experience in retailing, and we were novices at retail operations.  We just assumed that customers deserved a welcome, a smile, great service, great product, and a great experience.  A 4.5 year 5 star Yelp rating validated that this had been a wise assumption.

However, not currently being in bricks and mortar retailing and being the customer again (we were working 60-80 hours a week, so we didn’t get out much during that time), I am now constantly amazed at what I experience on the other side of the counter.  I’m a low-maintenance person, so it’s not like I’m expecting a red carpet to be rolled out.  But I do like to feel that I’m appreciated for patronizing the business or, at the very least, not considered an interruption or a bother.

Example:  Being out of town one day this week, we went to three food establishments and a restaurant equipment store.  What was the average customer service score?  Well, in the restaurant equipment store, no one smiled. No one offered to help us look at equipment. One fellow glumly looked on his computer screen to find manufacturers for the items they did not have in stock (which we had spent time on their showroom floor looking for ourselves while the 4-5 employees–no other customers–sat or stood behind the counter), and no one said ‘thank you for coming’ when we left.  Score=1 and that is very generously given. We won’t be back.  There are plenty of others to choose from.

The food service businesses did much better, I’m glad to report.  I’d give them, in order, a 3, 10, and 10.  Interestingly, out of our four stops that day, the businesses who scored 1 and 3 were independents, while the two scoring 10 were fast food chains (one of which I only went into to get some carbonated soda to help settle my stomach).

I’m one who tends to choose independents over chains whenever possible, but it has emphasized to me how important it is for independents to at least provide as good a customer service experience as national chains.  A smile, friendly greeting, a “may I help you”, a “thank you for coming”, don’t cost a thing and have high margins on return.  I would much rather have a high school student who knows how to make people feel important than a Ph.D. with an attitude representing my business.

It reminds me of a quote I saw posted by someone on Twitter the other day from Maya Angelou:  “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel’.