What's The Customer Service Buzz About Your Business?
Small Business Q&A with Tim Knox
If you're a regular reader of this column you know that my number
one pet peeve is bad customer service. Nothing chaps my backside
more than paying hard-earned money for a product or service only
to have the provider of said product or service become apathetic,
obnoxious or just downright rude after the transactional smoke
The bottomline, my entrepreneurial friend, is this: it doesn't
matter if your product is fast food, slow food, retail goods,
computers, lawn mowers, books, real estate or automobiles, if
a customer is willing to pay you good money in exchange for
your product or service that customers deserves to be treated
with gratitude and respect, before and after the sale. Period.
I'm constantly amazed at how many business owners and the
frontline employees who represent them seem to forget this
It's like the old saying about getting a little respect in the
morning. If you court me before the sale, you damn well better
respect me afterward. Just because you have my money in your
pocket and I have your product in my hand, that does not mean
that my needs have been fully satisfied or that my expectations
have ceased to exist. To the contrary, our relationship is
just getting started. It's up to you how well we will get
along and how long our relationship will last.
Here's the point: customer service should not stop after the
sale. In fact, customer support AFTER the sale can have
greater impact on the success of your business than customer
support before the sale.
Nothing generates negative buzz about a business like bad
customer service, and nothing will drive nails in a business'
coffin faster. News of bad customer service travels like
lightning and spreads like wildfire. Think back to the last
time you were on the receiving end of bad customer service.
I'd be willing to bet that you immediately went out into the
world and told everyone you met about the experience. You
probably also warned them to "never do business with those
&^%$ or you'll get treated the same!"
As a business person, it should be your mission to make every
customer a repeat customer, and one of the best ways to do that
is by delivering superior customer service every time that
customer comes through your door. Superior customer service
leads to increased customer satisfaction, which leads to repeat
business, which leads to customer loyalty. It is also much
cheaper to keep a customer than to obtain a new one.
The fast food industry is especially prone to customer service
problems. This is due in large part to the fact that every
transaction is a face-to-face sale and the average fast food
worker is a disgruntled teenager who would rather be lying on
a bed of nails than standing behind a fast food counter
However, that doesn't always have to be the case. This is not
meant as an ad for Chic Filet or as a slam at Taco Bell, but
the difference in customer service between these two fast food
titans is astounding.
I used to frequent both establishments (fast food is my crack),
so this is the voice of experience speaking. Behind the counter
at the local Chic Filet are young people who seem genuinely
happy to be of service. They are clean cut and polite. They
don't wear their baseball caps sideways or have anything
visibly pierced. They look me in the eye, they smile like
there is no place on earth they would rather be, and they ask
for my order in clear, concise English. They thank me profusely
and invite me to come again. Excellent customer service after
Inversely, a recent trip to a local Taco Bell almost ended on
an episode of Cops because the young lady behind the counter
grew angry when I politely pointed out that my nachos were
stale and asked for a fresh bag (pet peeve #132: stale nachos).
Miss Mary Sunshine snatched the offending nachos from my hand
and slam dunked them in a trash can, then tossed a replacement
bag (which were also stale) on the counter in front of me. She
then gave me a look that clearly said that if I had any further
complaints she'd be happy to escort me outside to discuss them
in detail. I like nachos, but not so much that I would risk
getting my behind kicked by a disgruntled teenage girl wearing
a sideways Taco Bell cap. Not-so-excellent customer service
after the sale.
Now, which restaurant do you think I will go to the next time
I feel the need to feed my fast food monkey? And which
restaurant do you think I enthusiastically recommend to my
friends? The one that understands the importance of good
customer service before and after the sale, of course.
The worst customer service experience I've ever had involved
the purchase of a vehicle at a local used car lot. I purchased
the used Ford Expedition on a Friday evening and when problems
arose with the vehicle over the weekend, I went back to the
dealership on Monday morning to speak with the sales manager.
To say the least, the sales manager (who acted like my best
friend on Friday) was not thrilled to see me on Monday. To make
a very long story short, when I pointed out that he wasn't
being very helpful after the sale he came around the desk
yelling at the top of his lungs and waving his hands in my face.
By the time the receptionist managed to calm him down, the sales
manager had gone so far as to call me "a retarded idiot"
(which may be considered redundant) and had instructed me to
do something with the vehicle that I believe is anatomically
It was an Expedition, I'm a little guy. Use your imagination.
Though the dealership owner later apologized and offered to take
care of any problem I had, the damage to his business had
already been done. The bad buzz machine started the second
I left his lot.
Do you think I told everyone I met about my experience with
that dealership? You bet your stale nachos I did. Do you
think I will ever buy another car from that dealership? Not
on your life. Do you think anyone I've told about the
experience will buy a car from that dealership? Probably not.
Do you think the owner and sales manager learned anything
from the experience? We can only hope.
In the end, what is the value of great customer service
before and after the sale? Priceless, my friend.
Now, can somebody please get me some fresh nachos…
Do you have a customer service horror story? I'd love to
hear it. Email me at the address below.
Here's to your success.
For information on starting your own online or eBay business,
About the Author
Small Business Q&A is written by veteran entrepreneur and
syndicated columnist, Tim Knox. Tim serves as the president and
CEO of three successful technology companies and is the founder
of DropshipWholesale.net, an online organization dedicated to
the success of online and eBay entrepreneurs.