Whenever we interact with a customer, even if it is the very first time you have ever seen them, chances are that your reputation has preceded you. During the course of our busy day we deal with a variety of situations and interactions. If you have been a good practitioner of excellent customer service, then your repeat customers know that. They approach you with their problem and a high degree of trust in your integrity and ability to offer them your best advice for a solution. They may not want to hear it because their “simple” problem is not so simple and it could mean spending more money than they anticipated. But, they know your reputation and can make a comfortable decision based on that fact.
Reputation is what serves and speaks for your business when you are not around. You could be fast asleep or halfway around the world on a vacation. It doesn’t matter. Your reputation is hard at work. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
Last night we had a couple of friends over for a barbeque. The ladies were inside sharing their interests and us guys were outside sharing some adult beverages and fine cigars. We’re talking about all the “important” topics of the day (and some not so important). At one point the conversation turns to a typical consumer topic. Someone bought something at a major national chain, had a problem (real or imagined) and returned it. A couple of examples seemed a little outside the box to me and I would have thought they would have had a problem but it turns out they didn’t. Even when there was no receipt or original packaging, all they had to do was remember what credit card they put it on and the store eagerly did the research, found the transaction and credited back the card for the full amount.
What followed was everyone chiming in with their own stories. No need to repeat them here but there were many. And, not all from the same chain or even type of business. (Note: I’m purposely being vague here and not naming names. We all know them and I wouldn’t want to call them out on a bad story either.) The point is that all of us were very supportive of these businesses with our own similar stories. What particularly struck me was the degree of confidence we expressed in these businesses. That’s REPUTATION! While these places all advertise and promote their businesses to get you in, they go a step (or steps) further and back up their hype. That’s a very big difference and it’s one your customers appreciate.
When it comes to pros and cons, every one of these businesses we spoke about had their share of cons as well. You can’t be all things to all people. It is nearly impossible. But, their cons were manageable. They were insignificant compared to the overall favorable impression.
Now, here’s one you can relate to. It’s from our business and it happened to me this week. For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, I’ll tell you that it will wind up on the steps of my friend Al’s station.
I was out for dinner last Saturday with a group of 12 friends. I hate to admit this, but it was on the early side. Please, no old guy jokes. It just happened that we were all attending a show at our community that night that started at eight o’clock. Dinner completed, we pile into our cars and head back for the show. Shortly after I pulled out of the restaurant parking lot I think I hear something that sounds like a window is open so I check all the controls. All good but the sound is still there. There’s a traffic light a block away and I’m not going fast. My wife tells me that there’s a police car on her side that’s signaling for me to lower a window. He tells me that the driver’s side rear tire is going flat. Fortunately there is a gas & go station at the light and I pull off the road into a parking spot.
Being a gas only place, there’s no one there to help us. I open the hatch and start getting out the tools and realize that it has been several decades since I had to change a flat. No full size spare. No donut. What I lower from its storage place is a cross between the two. Have you seen what they give you for a jack these days? I suppose there are no more bumpers. Fortunately, a “younger” guy pulls in for gas and offers to help.
Sunday morning I go over to one of the big chains to see if they could repair the tire. Not possible. Rode on the flat a little too long, sidewall’s shot and they don’t have a tire in stock. Oh well. I can take it to Al’s Monday morning. Not that I have anything against this “chain”. I just have confidence in whatever Al will tell me. It’s a leased car and it’s going back in 9 months. I don’t want to put on an expensive tire.
His recommendation is to put on the exact same tire with the exact same tread. All the other tires are in good shape. He says it’s safer and that the dealership will probably notice a different tire when I turn it in and give me some feedback. Safety was the issue for me. I wasn’t happy having to spend the extra dollars BUT, I trust Al and have confidence that he is giving me the best advice. This comes after he has sent me back to the dealer on more than one occasion because it “should be covered”. He has jump started my car. He has put it on the rack to check for a leak so I can tell the Dealership exactly what was wrong. He has done all this and presented me with no bill.
I’m not going to tell you that you should do those things in your own place or not. Some of you may work for large national companies with strict guidelines or have certain policies in place. By all means, you need to follow the directives from above. All I can do is relate to you the things that drive me back to the places I do business with. I am only one person with one opinion. …. Or am I?
© Bill Rosenberg
BillR Services, LLC