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By Donnabeth Leffler

Compare & Contrast

By Donnabeth Leffler Posted August 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I’d like to begin by torturing Charles Dickens: “It was the best of service and the worst of service…”

 
Yes, I’m on my customer service soapbox again and before I tell you my latest Tale of Two Services, I want to explain why I harp on this topic:  It doesn’t take much effort nor money to earn my custom and my affection and yet businesses, even in these tough times, don’t seem to understand that they lose when they act as if it’s not worth the effort.
 
Business A:  I’m a multi-year client of a fitness enterprise.  It’s an expensive proposition but I have a terrific teacher who makes it worthwhile.  I’m suffering through an almost year-long recovery from two knee surgeries and returned to this business as soon as my surgeon cleared me to do so. 
 
Unbeknownst to me (and this is my fault for being an unaware consumer), my purchased class packages expire after a few months.  My kind teacher caught it twice and knowing I wasn’t beaching on Bali instead of working out, extended the deadline for me.  The third time it came up I received an email from an administrative staffer telling me I owed $25 to extend my package.  I replied with a protest, explaining my reason for not using it.  She replied that it had already been extended twice and I had to pay or lose those remaining sessions (which cost more than $25).
 
Here’s what didn’t happen: 
  • Let me know ahead of time to see if I could schedule some extras before that 3rd deadline kicked in.  
  • Offer me that amount discounted off an early purchase of a new package
  • Offer me branded merchandise in the amount (wouldn’t have wanted it but the gesture would have been appreciated).
  • Look at the larger picture: multi-year regular client, health issues, already back to regular lessons and waive it.  I’m not a client who just doesn’t show up, nor do I tend to cancel with little notice.
 
You have to believe me when I tell you that my umbrage with this has little to do with the  $25 and everything to do with the way a regular customer with very good and a provable excuse should be treated.  
 
My teacher is great enough that I will not walk away.  But here’s what the business did lose: as I get back to full strength and I’m looking for additional classes, I won’t even check there.  Gift certificates for a massage will come from somewhere else.  As for those package purchases, that’s an awful lot of money up front. Hmmm.  Maybe I should buy a smaller one each time. 
 
Business B:  Several months ago when I thought my knee recovery was going to move a bit more quickly I bought a package of classes with every intention of using them within the time allowed.  I received a reminder that it was about to expire and thought about shrugging and chalking it up to the cost of my injury.  I decided to at least try to rescue the situation.  Because Business B has not met me prior to this, I took along a note from my surgeon and stopped in, asking for an extension.  One of the teachers working out front told me she’d keep my information and that I should email the owner, explaining all of this.  
 
I came right home and did so and moments after I pressed send, my phone rang. It was Katie Martin, owner of Studio East 54, calling to assure me that she’d start my package as soon as I was able to return.  I’m already scanning her schedule looking for other classes I can take there as I want to reward her flexibility and customer service.  I’m not even her customer YET and I’m being treated this well.  Contrast that with Business A, which has already benefitted from my business for years.   
 
Do you have a story that makes you scratch your head in wonder?  Please share it with me by commenting below or writing to Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com
 
P.S.  A piece of unfinished business and a tip of my savvy spending hat to the team behind the departed and lamented Cypress on the Hill.  A few weeks ago I wrote about a gift certificate I feared was worthless. Wrong!  About a week ago I received a postal money order in the exact amount.   A friend on a board with me said once (in another context) that cooks should always leave a clean kitchen and, the Cypress folks certainly left (another) good taste in my mouth.
 
P.P.S.  A quick note about a recent Chapelboro.com news story:  Orange County funding a UNC study that will go toward keeping local start-ups in the county.   That $12,000 is being savvily spent, in my opinion.  Homegrown businesses: talk about Buy Local!
 
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