Beside the Point




In heavy contemplation as we decided to roll out this new crazy digital product, one of the things (among many seemingly insurmountable things) I told myself I was going to get done, was to write an opinion piece on customer service.

This new Pen City Current adventure is a non-traditional format for news gathering that is very fast paced. My wife Lee, (who’s trying to sell this product to all of you…hint..hint..hint) came up with the slogan hyper-local, super-fresh. Fresh to me means fast and we want you to get it fast and on your media device.

The non-traditional means that I want to provide a vehicle of news to you that you may not be so used to. I want it to be a vehicle that sometimes I drive….and sometimes you do. Why? Because I think that’s the right way to do business. Accuracy, proper representation and giving you kind of a blank tablet to message to the community, I think (and we’ll soon see) works. If you can tell your story the way you want, while allowing us here to cover the hard news the way we have to, helps strike a balance in confidence and respect.

I was in the quick service restaurant business for almost 20 years and I can honestly tell you this…the customer is not always right. That’s an adage that went out with the razor strap and Olde English. But one fact is for certain, every penny you make comes from the customer, so you better do everything you can to get it right.

But I personally have had instances in this town where my money went out of town because customer service training failed and reps at those companies did not have the skill set to rectify the problem and keep that sale.

Many..and I mean MANY of you came into contact with me at KFC and it was a rare occasion that I couldn’t rectify any situation. That doesn’t mean there were some customers who’s sole purpose was free food…it happens and continues to I’m sure, but if I even sensed that a customer was leaving the store unhappy I inserted myself into that situation and regularly solved that problem and held onto that customer. Even if I had to chase them into the parking lot to fix the problem. That did and I kept them as customers.

Very rarely is it that a manager and customer can’t come to a reconciliation point and end a problem with a smile and solution.

So where did it go? Where is that top-shelf customer service that we should be getting at all of our local businesses? Is it training…is it attitude? When I held training sessions for our managers I always said you hire for attitude and train for skill. Customer service skills are marketable, in high demand and the first contact that can literally make or break a business. Some of you hit it out of the park…some have opportunities.

So as you move about our town this week. Pay attention when you are out spending some money and running your errands. Take a second look at the service you’re getting. Is it top-shelf? If it was, make sure you let someone know. Business owners and managers hear the bad stuff. Believe me, they do. But it’s really nice when someone lets them know the good stuff, too. But if it was bad….maybe you let someone know that, too.

Either way shop locally, engage with your customer base and get to know their names and faces, thank them for their business…and read the Pen City Current.

But that’s Beside the Point.




2 thoughts on “Beside the Point

  1. Chuck-this is an excellent point to bring up. I moved from a very large city back to FM just over two years ago and the thing I found most disturbing was that the customer service seemed to be a direct reflection on management styles. It seems that so many employees are treated as more of an expense or commodity instead of an investment in the business–you can instantly tell when management treats them differently.

    As someone who worked a short time in retail here, I found that though we were “trained” to treat the customer in a manner that would always bring them back, the company policies and dictates didn’t always allow us to that and we lost many customers because if we violated those policies we might lose our jobs. Basically, it became far more important for the owners and upper-management of that company to make money than it was to follow their supposed policies. I sadly found that retail was not the only place this happens.

    I’m a firm believer if you pay your employees a decent wage, give them a level autonomy, benefits that will help them relieve a bit of the stresses in their lives, and respect their opinions as those on the “front lines”, you will have employees who will stay longer and who will positively recommend your company when they do decide to follow their path to something bigger for their lives.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Michelle. Just an observation on my part but, most locally owned businesses do this very well simply because the owners are engaged. I see it more when ownership is not fully engaged in the business.

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