Column by VerticalResponse CEO/Founder Janine Popick, Inc.com "Make Sure Your Customers Stay Put"
Sept. 10, 2012
Don't allow new policies to have huge consequences for your existing customers, staff, and your bottom line.
There's a restaurant I've been going to for 10 years. Over the course of time, management has come and gone as you would expect, and great people have left only to be replaced by new ones who were equally as great (and in some cases better). They've always welcomed locals and regulars through their doors with love and sometimes even through a back door when it's busy, since it happens to be located right next to a major league ballpark. They've gone as far as to give locals a discount since having us in the off season is important to them.
They've done everything right as far as customer service goes, in my opinion. We've always felt like family even though they're owned by a "corporation."
Then one day, the "corporation" decided to screw everything up. Here's what they've done and what I think they should've done. Are you guilty of any of these with your customers?
- You have valuable regular customers. Don't screw with them.
The regulars now get turned away at the door by a bouncer who doesn't put a face to a name, not to mention they've kiboshed any discounts for locals and the local industry people. What they should've done: All they needed to do was to get to know the people that helped build the business in the first place. A smile, a simple "hi" and a "thanks for coming in" doesn't take a whole lot. Neither does a small 10 percent discount.
- You--and your managers--need to win your employees over.
Corporate replaced the current employees with people who just don't seem to care. The newly hired manager showed up to work one day, was introduced to her staff at the lineup and proceeded to not talk to anyone the entire night. What they should've done: That manager should have said "hi" to her new staff and told them she's excited to work with them. Since she didn't, some of them went to look for jobs.
- Know your target audience.
The restaurant's target audience isn't right for the decisions the new corporate bosses are making. The restaurant is next to a ballpark and they're attempting to make it a high-end destination where they can overcharge for food. Newsflash: Game goers want burgers and BBQ, and locals won't pay for upmarket meals when the old menu was fine all along. What they should've done: The restaurant could have surveyed their customers first to see if a menu change would be supported.
- Lead by example.
The new management (and head chef) doesn't smile, doesn't greet guests and they leer at employees for talking to customers too long. Management doesn't always chip in to help (as evidenced by the chef, who eats lunch everyday at noon when the dining room is completely busy). Newsflash: If you're in the hospitality business, you're supposed to make people feel welcome. What they should've done: Management needed to greet customers and work like their employees. If for whatever reason they don't want to, they should've at least let their employees do their job.
The story ends sadly: Too many of the locals now won't go back to this restaurant everyone once loved so much.
Whether you're in the restaurant business or not, it doesn't take much to alienate employees and customers. That said, it doesn't take much not to, either. Do you have any horror stories?
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