Marketing Genius from Maple Creative


Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More on Dry Cleaners, Poor Customer Service and Bad Attitudes

This is from a local marketing genius who works for a non-profit organization in Charleston, West Virginia. She's a real pro ... experienced and savvy. She gets it. If she sees this post and chooses to identify herself that's great. We'll leave it up to her.

Recently, I have experienced a definite "the customer is always wrong" attitude ... it is day and night between businesses where people really hustle for business. In places like Chicago, there is a lot of competition and a lot of opportunity, and client service is strongly ingrained in the population. In other places, folks sometimes behave like they are in a socialist country, where there isn't any incentive to work hard because the rewards are limited. Such attitude can really hold a place back from progress and growth.

Maybe it's the lack of competition or workforce challenges, but "my give a damn's busted" is definitely the approach of many business owners and workers alike. My husband and I have experienced this with lawyers and other professionals, down to cashiers and waiters.

Here's some recent examples:

Yesterday I went to Petsmart to get some stuff for my cat. One of my items rang up $2 more than the price on the display sign. When I pointed this out to the cashier, she got huffy, accused me of switching prices and then reluctantly said, "OK, I guess I'll refund your $2." I thought this could be a "teachable moment" for the manager, so I very politely relayed my experience and pointed out that they weren't doing me any favors, because the law requires customers to be charged the correct price. She didn't get it either and got very defensive.

My husband took a very expensive pair of pants to the drycleaners. He had just got them from Kelley's and they had been worn once. When he picked them up, he took them out of the bag and noticed that the cuffs were basically shredded at the bottom and the pockets were mangled. The owner of the shop was outraged that he had the temerity to inspect them in the shop and screamed "We do excellent work" and blamed Kelley's, saying they sell crappy merchandise. When my husband said he would be happy with just a refund of the cleaning costs, the lady threatened to call the police.

I'm loathe to pick on my new hometown, and I've certainly had customer service problems in Chicago, but I hate for this region to be held back due to this defensive attitude.

Just blowing off steam.....

Okay, marketing geniuses, what do you think? Have you had similar experiences? What is that difference-maker "ingredient?"

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Anonymous Dave Kelley said...

I drive almost 20 miles out of my way to use a dry cleaner I have been using for the past 15 years. I don't understand a darn thing she says, but she is always so happy to see me... and they take great care of my clothes...I will never leave, and they will never go out of business.

I've got one... When I got divorced about 8 years ago I went to BestBuy to outfit the "pad" with the latest and greatest.. spent about $2,000 on various stuff which became obsolete when I left the store. Anyway, one of the items was a $30.00 cordless phone. I went out of town for several weeks after the purchase and when I returned the phone didn't work. Took it back to BestBuy and was told I missed the 30 day return policy by two days. I showed the young lady my receipt with all of the other great stuff I bought and asked for a break... no dice. Manager... after taking 35 minutes to get dice. Told him I'd never be back, and he shrugged his tiny shoulders... so I wrote a letter to the regional manager and then called him... nuthin. So as I promised him, everytime I buy something of any relevance that I could have bought from BestBuy (2 flatscreens, several Ipods, etc.) I mail him the receipt... I know he probably doesn't get them or open them and he still doesn't care.. but it makes me feel better. I have two or three others on my mailing list (Hotel manager in St. Michaels, MD; Pearle Vision Center in our town)

2:35 AM

Blogger Skip Lineberg said...


What a comment! I love it. The fact that you mail the receipts from the other store to the manager at the former store is priceless. It totally illustrates the power of customer engagement and activation--in the negative sense, in this instance. Naturally, customers can become equally engaged and motivated in the positive direction (as promoters), when we give them reasons.


11:33 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the longstanding chain restaurants at the Town Center provided exceptionally bad customer service at the end of our meal.

Many years ago, four of us enjoyed a lovely evening on the patio and spent quite a lot of money during the leisurely 3 hours we drank, shared appetizers and had dinner.

As we paid our significant tab, we were astounded by the addition of an 18% gratuity. When we politely questioned the waitress, she got defensive and stammered about how long we occupied the table and said she was worried that we weren't going to leave a tip. Then she cried. I asked her to send the manager our way.

Eventually, the manager came over to find out why we made the waitress cry. I questioned the addition of a gratuity to our tab when clearly the menu only stated gratuities would be added for parties of six or more. I was mostly disappointed that she neglected to mention the addition of the gratuity.

We are 20% tippers at minimum. We would probably have tipped more since we were very pleased with the service until the sneakplay on the bill.

The manager handled the situation poorly and the waitress continued to cry. Eventually, we paid our tab and left the 18%. Neither the manager, nor the waitress grasped the issue. The manager wouldn't re-ring the bill.

It has been 8 years since that incident, and I still refuse to eat at Chili's no matter where I am.

1:40 PM

Anonymous M said...

While I am in no way condoning any of these practices, I also think it is important to understand the geographic location and types of businesses involved. Places such as West Virginia are going to skew more towards Mom & Pop operations, that do not operate by the same set of Corporate Beliefs (The Customer is always matter how wrong they really are) we have become accustomed to in our larger cities. These places frequently have employees working for minimum wage JOBS, not careers. They typically have no room for advancement and are so tedious that there is no incentive for them to actually care about the service the customer is receiving. So when I get bad service at a dry cleaner or checking out at the Dollar Store, I think "Would I show any motivation or eagerness to please if I were in their position?" Usually I tell myself "No". If there is no incentive to do a better job, sometimes you just get the bare minimum

10:40 PM

Blogger Skip Lineberg said...

M -

Thanks for joining the conversation. And while I truly appreciate your comment and respect your opinion, I could not disagree with you more.

Regardless of location, whether urban, rural or third-world ... and regardless of the pay scale, poor attitudes are unacceptable. An uncaring attitude in a customer service job is patently unacceptable, in my opinion. And the blame falls squarely upon the leadership, whether owner, manager or supervisor. A competent manager can (and should) teach, train, explain, inspire and demand excellence in customer service from every employee. If a bad hire is made ... if an employee proves to be incapable or unsuited to deliver great service, then he or she should be terminated.

My wife and her sister ran a bagel shop restaurant in downtown Charleston, WV, for 7 years. They employed many folks over that period of time, and many of them worked for wages that were at or slightly above minimum wage. Their customers always received good, friendly, competent service. It was attributable to their leadership, training and caring, as owners. Plus, they selected good employees. It can be done. I have seen it. We must never settle for poor service based on the excuse that "it's just the way things are around here."

Am I right or wrong here, folks?

Respectfully yours,

12:54 AM


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