‘Making Good’ Can Make Good Customers

By Dawn Lospaluto
In February 7, 2014

During the holidays, someone gave me a $50 gift certificate for a local Scottish fish and chips restaurant called “The Thistle.” It reminded me that the same person had given me a similar gift the year before. I started hunting through some old boxes and sure enough found the previous year’s card with a one-year certificate ththe thistleat had expired about two weeks earlier. Determined not to similarly waste this year’s card, I decided to redeem it that night and ordered two crabmeat-stuffed shrimp take-out dinners.

Since it seemed criminal to just throw out the $50 from the previous year, I thought that when I picked the order up I would ask if the expired card could still be redeemed. If it could not, I’d just use the new card. When I got there, the counter person was extremely busy, with a number of orders being put together for pick up, but she still greeted me with a smile. When asked about the expired card, she said without a moment’s hesitation, “Of course you can use it. The boss would never say otherwise.”

Point one for the vendor: Not only did his employees know he would not demand that “the letter of the law be followed,” but he had empowered them to bend the rules themselves on the spot without forcing me to wait uncomfortably while they “went to ask the owner.”

I happily picked up the food and went home, only to discover that the salads had been left out of the order, so I called back. The same woman answered and apologized, asking how far away I was and offering to deliver it. Since I live just a few blocks from the restaurant, I said it was no problem for me to return. It was a bitterly cold evening and as I pulled up in front of the restaurant, I saw her coming out of the door with my bag in her hand so that I didn’t even have to get out of my car. She had been waiting for me and again apologized for the inconvenience.

Point two for the vendor: Just by taking those few steps outside and preventing me from having to park the car and walk into the restaurant, the clerk made me feel that my being inconvenienced was important to her and that she would do whatever she could to minimize that inconvenience.

End of story: The owner could have pocketed the $50 and just said, sorry, the card expired. He didn’t. The clerk could have just said, oh yes, the bag is here and you can come and pick it up. She didn’t. Each of them extended me extra care and courtesy that won the restaurant a loyal customer; I’ll be redeeming that second card soon and making many more visits  there after that.

It’s been said that a customer who experiences a problem that a vendor or supplier corrects is a more faithful customer than one that has never had a problem with the company. That’s true only if the vendor sees the complaint not as a problem, but as an opportunity to not only mend the tear in the relationship with the customer, but actually strengthen the bond.

Sometimes that opportunity will be costly, as in those times when some or all of a job needs to be re-run, and sometimes it can be time consuming, as in having to make some extra calls to find the exact paper the customer wants rather than convincing him to use a house stock. And sometimes it can be a matter of just taking whatever action is needed to show the customer that you care about your ongoing relationship with him, not just about cashing his check.

Dawn Lospaluto

Epicomm Senior Director of Communications, Dawn has been the editor of Epicomm 's "Bottom Line" magazine and its predecessor publications, "NAPL Business Review," Printing Manager," and "The Journal of Graphic Communications Management," for 20 years. She also writes and edits several Epicomm member print and electronic newsletters, including [Re]View, Management Bulletin, Highlights, and Discover; press releases; and various marketing materials; and oversees Epicomm 's book publishing program. Dawn previously served as corporate managing editor for Allied (now Honeywell) Corporation and as a reporter and editor for New Jersey's largest evening newspaper. She is a graduate of Douglass College (Rutgers University) and holds an M.A. degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she has served on the adjunct faculty.

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