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Customer No Service - How to Lose a Loyal Customer!


So today was the day where I almost stopped going to my favorite supermarket here in Milwaukee. If you're in Milwaukee, you know the one I'm talking about: the cool one downtown that has 1000 different types of produce, and a whole aisle dedicated to gourmet coffee and teas. The one with the free samples, the wine tasting and cooking courses. Yeah, that one.

Anyway, today I went to the market to buy a few things for dinner. I knew it was going to go wrong because my usual entrance to the parking lot was gated off by shopping carts lying on the ground to block my path. OK, I'm flexible, I'll drive around.

The second thing was when they were out of my favorite glass bottles of skim milk. It's the best way to drink milk, in my humble opinion. They had every flavor except for mine.

Next, I tried to check out by "paying by touch." Let me tell you, this can be the best system in the world, you just sign up with your driver's license number, your credit card number, your preferred customer number, and your phone number, and away you go. Notice I said CAN be the best. Many times, my preferred card number doesn't work in the system, and it doesn't take the savings off of the bill, and tonight was one of those nights.

Now this would have been okay, had the checker just used the house card and given me the lower price so my debit card would be billed the correct amount, however she did not know how to do this. Instead, she said to go over to the service counter and someone over there would help me out.

Skeptical, I walked over to the service desk to see 3 clerks talking to each other and cutting out something that was much more urgent than me and the 4 other people in line. For some reason, after a few minutes, one girl asked to help me. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I told her my dilemma, and she proceeded to go through my bags, re-scanning things and writing down what she thought was the correct cents off. I'm no cheapskate, but five dollars is 2 gallons of gas! Of course, she was doing all of this in her head, and didn't let me see the slip, and of course didn't do it correct, ripping me off to the tune of about 20 cents, plus I had to re-pack my own groceries.

To add insult to injury, there was no ramp open to go down to the parking structure I was forced to use, so I had to grab my bags and carry them, with my wife, down 3 flights of 10 stairs.

This is maddening to me! It's so easy to do things right. Here's how I would provide customer service.

  • Plainly mark the entrances that are closed, and advertise it on your stores website, thus alleviating some of your customers' frustrations, and provide the alternative entrances.

  • If you're out of something, put a sign up that lets me know when it's going to be back so I can return and buy it then, and apologize that you're out. A little sign is all I ask, not a big production.

  • Make the error in favor of your customers, and scan the house savings card whenever in doubt. And give your checkers the ability to fix this, instead of sending us over to the service desk.

  • Offer something extra to customers when your computer systems don't work as planned. It doesn't have to be a lot, but give me a coupon for a free loaf of bread, a free deli sandwich, or something nice. It's not my fault your preferred system doesn't work.

  • Use loyalty cards for EXTRA things, not to get the every day lowest price. Why am I going to scan my preferred customer card if I know I don't have anything that's on sale? I'm not, that's why.

    That's all I've got. See, it wasn't so hard, was it? Making customer service great is a lot easier than you though. And oh yeah, you won't lose me as a customer if you at least try. Thanks!

    Phil Gerbyshak publishes the Make it Great! blog at http://MakeItGreat.blogspot.com. It's updated many days with thoughts about how to take control of your life and stop letting it take control of you! He also has a personal website at http://Gerbyshak.com. Feel free to stop in anytime or give me a call at 414.640.7445 so I can help you make it a great day!


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