This week the Frog reveals what can happen to a business when they don't recognise how poor or inconsistent their customer service is.
I've just returned from my local chippy, where I treated myself to a rather lovely cod and chips. I was also lucky (or should that be unlucky?) enough to receive a rather generously-sized portion of customer service insight. Who said you don’t get anything for free anymore!
The chip shop in question is owned by a Mediterranean couple, both of whom have a “bit of a temper”. It’s quite a common experience to be stood waiting while one shouts at the other. Actually, when I say “shout” I mean vehement red-faced screaming. If you’re a Jeremy Kyle fan, you know what I’m talking about. Indeed, I should imagine you’d welcome the experience as entertainment to pass the time while you wait for your chicken & mushroom pie. As I’m definitely NOT a Mr Kyle fan, the whole thing has always made me feel rather awkward… I can only stare uncomfortably at a saveloy for so long before wanting to fling myself in the chip vat to end the misery.
About three months ago I made a conscious decision never to go back. While I’d become impervious to the domestic melodrama, I couldn’t get past the increasingly inconsistent reception to me as a customer. It was a flip of the coin whether my chips would be happily served with a smiling face and jocular discussion, or whether they’d be hurled onto my rissole along with a side-serving of hassled frowns and miserable mumbling. Alas, my rumbling tummy and empty fridge got the better of me tonight… but it did reaffirm my decision never to go back again.
The sad reality is that this business is losing custom on a massive scale. The perplexed owners have tried to diversify and expand their market-reach, but it’s not working… and they genuinely don’t know why. The fact is that their shop is now infamous; becoming the devoted topic of local conversation. Tales abound about how Mr Jones and his sausage-in-batter were treated appallingly, or how Mrs Thomas had the most shocking experience and had to take a sweet sherry for her nerves when she got home. Indeed, local shop woman (from previous blog fame) recently allowed some door-to-door salesman to have a meeting at the back of her shop by the cornflakes, rather than signpost them across the road to the chip shop where they could have sat down with a cup of tea. When I asked her why, she told me “it wouldn’t be fair” on the men to “have to listen to all that cowin’ palaver”.
Unsurprisingly, the chip shop is now up for sale and the ‘lively’ owners remain bewildered about why they’re not making any money.
While this true example is somewhat extreme, it serves as a perfect illustration of customer service without the customer bit… otherwise known as “service”. We’ve all been there, stuck between two checkoutswhile Becky and Shaz - thinking they’re doing you a favour by robotically bleeping your Rivita through the till - shout through you about their debauched Saturday night antics. Taking my order, giving me my change and shovelling my chips into a cone is service. Acknowledging my presence, smiling, giving thought to the experience I’m having, being polite and engaging is customer service. And, funnily enough, customer service is what customers want.
Robert Half (the world’s largest professional staffing and consulting service) pretty much summed it up when they said: “when the customer comes first, the customer will last”.
I wish someone would let my local chippy know. Unfortunately, I’m not brave enough to face the inevitable rage. So perhaps I’ll do us both a favour, make another visit for some more fish & chips and leave a cryptic message in salt on the counter just before I leave…
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Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)