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Is Bad Customer Service Killing Your Business?

Tim Knox

It`s time to beat the old bad customer service drum again. I know, I`m sick of beating the drum, too, but as long as bad customer service runs rampant through so many businesses I feel it is my entrepreneurial duty to bring it to your attention. So grab a pew and prepare to listen to the sermon I`ve preached before: bad customer service is the bane of business. If the Almighty smote down every business that dispenses bad customer service the world would be a much friendlier, albeit much sparser place. Consider a world without malls and fast food joints would it really be so bad?

What puzzles me most is if bad customer service is such a death knell for business, why do so many businesses allow it to go on? Don`t they read my column, for Pete`s sake? I think the problem is that most bad customer service is doled out (or at least condoned) My latest parable of lousy customer service was actually experienced As my wife waited for someone to assit, the four or five teenagers who had been charged with manning the store stood in a clump at the cash register giggling and flirting with one another as if they were at the prom instead of at work.

When my wife pointed out this fact, one of the employees, a cheeky lass of 16 or so, put her hands on her hips and said, "How rude!" The males in the group didn`t react at all. They were too busy arguing over who could take a break so they could chase other cheeky lasses about the mall.

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Needless to say my lovely bride, who has the ability to instill fear into the hearts of even the most worthless employees, left the gaggle of giggling teen idiots standing with their mouths open in disbelief. How dare a customer tell them to do that with a pair of basketball shoes?

As much as I bemoan bad customer service I celebrate good customer service. It should be applauded and the purveyor of said good customer service should be rewarded for actually delivering satisfaction to the customer above and beyond the call of duty.

So let me tell you the story of my new hero, Ken. I won`t tell you the name of the store in which Ken works, but let`s just say they started out selling radios in a shack somewhere long, long ago.

I first met Ken when I went into the store to buy a mixing board for my business that records audio products for the Web. In a nutshell, you plug microphones into the mixing board then connect it to the computer and you can record audio directly to digital format. Totally beside the point of this article, but I didn`t want you thinking that I was purchasing non-manly cooking utensils.

When I got the mixer installed it didn`t work. So I boxed it up and headed back to the store to return it. When I told Ken my problem he didn`t just grunt and give me my money back as so many bad customer service reps would do. Instead he asked, "Do you mind if I try it?"

"Knock yourself out," was my reply, confident that if I couldn`t get it to work, neither could Ken. Ken took the mixer out of the box and went about hooking it up to one of the computers on display. He started pulling power cords and cables off the display racks and ripping them open and plugging them in. He tore open a new microphone and an adapter and kept going until he had the mixer hooked up and working. Yes, I said working. It turns out the mixer was fine. I just had the wrong power adapter.

Ken could have just given me my money back and been done with me. Instead he spent 15 minutes and opened a number of other packages that I was under no obligation to buy just to help me get the thing working.

I was so impressed that I not only kept the mixing board, I also bought another $50 worth of products. And the next time I need anything electronic guess where I will buy it? Even if it costs twice as much, I`ll buy it from Ken.

Now here`s the moral of the story: if you are a business owner who has a gaggle of teenagers in charge of customer service at your store you would be better off replacing them with wild monkeys.

At least monkeys can be trained.

Tim Knox

Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker

Tim Knox is a nationally-known small business expert who writes and speaks frequently on the topic.

For more information or to contact Tim please visit one of his sites below.



Marching with other flags, to different drums

Chicago Sun-Times , May 2, 2006 by Neil Steinberg

`Isn`t that Denmark?" I said to a woman who had a flag displaying a yellow cross on a field of cornflower blue stuck in her hair.

Her friend stepped in to answer.

"Sweden," said Graciela Suarez, of West Town Leadership United, a community service organization. "We have one person from that nation. We try to represent all countries."

All countries, as far as I could tell, sure were represented at the big immigration rights march Monday. Rep. Luis Gutierrez may have gone on the radio and urged everyone to carry only American flags -- but old Luis must not have the clout he imagines. Old Glory predominated, but it had competition from the flags of Mexico and dozens of other nations.

Like movie sets, marches are not exactly thrill-a-minute, once you get over the excitement of being among several hundred thousand people, and as I wandered about, I entertained myself seeking out unusual flags.

Jorge Hernandez held a flag with two vertical blue stripes divided by a single white stripe, on which was a long-plumed bird standing against a pair of crossed muskets.

"We are all immigrants and they don`t realize the country can`t live without our hands," he said, adding that the flag was Guatemala`s and the bird a quetzal.

Edward Farnham held aloft the multicolored gay rights flag and wore a wildly colored embroidered jacket that defies description. I wondered what the connection between gay rights and immigrant rights could be.

"One of our mottos is, `An attack on one is an attack on all,` " said Farnham. "We feel all minority groups work in unison to advance our rights."

A surprising number carried the red flag of international communism. Surprising, that is, until I noticed the dozens of lefties pushing the banners on people.

"This is the better flag," said a 50ish woman with dyed hair, pressing a red plastic banner tacked to a rough slat on a reluctant Hispanic man holding an American flag. "This is the flag of the future, of people with no borders."

She was selling the flags for $1. I asked her if the ship had not sailed on communism long ago.

"On Stalinism, yes," she said. "But communism, no."

The current immigration debate is being driven by Latinos, but one of the goals of this march was to show that other groups are also affected, and they were out in force.

Maurice Connolly, of Atrim, on the north coast of Ireland, was one of a dozen or so waving the green, white and orange.

"It`s nice to get citizenship," he said. "What else can you say?"

But the biggest non-Hispanic group was a contingent of several hundred Poles gathered under the red and white banner of Poland. Alone among the nationalities, the Polish leaders wore suits and ties, and none were better dressed than Seweryn and Maria Wojciech, who have been married 45 years. He wore a three-piece grey suit and a subtle tie; she, a purple crushed velvet dress, a brocade jacket and high heels. (To a march. Heels.)

"For immigrants, America is best," said Seweryn, who held a huge American flag fringed in gold that looked taller than he.

Shortly after noon we started walking east on Randolph toward Grant Park. We passed old line companies like the A.J Thomas Cash Register Co. and the D. Robinson Dairy Distribution Center. Workers poured out to take a look. Meatpackers in their long blue padded coats stood on the curb outside of Y.H. Foods, and one lady clasped her hands in front of her face, obviously moved.

Signs tended to be made by organizations -- one immigration lawyer provided about a third of them, with a message about rights on one side, a plug for the firm on the other. But some were homemade, charmingly so, my favorite being: "STOP USING IMMIGRANTS AS THE ESCAPE GOAT."

If you meant to go to the rally, but didn`t, then Shannon O`Malley, 13, put you to shame. She limped along Jackson, her right leg in a cast from thigh to ankle.

"My friend`s parents are immigrants," she said, referring to Liliana Hernandez, also 13, whose arm was linked with hers. "I don`t think it`s right to punish people just because of who their parents are."

Once we reached Grant Park, the mood became more relaxed and desultory -- like a concert without the music. People gathered in knots, spread blankets to picnic; a large group of Muslims prayed.

A man in a black porkpie hat held a flag showing a five-pointed green star on a field of stark red.

"Satanism?" I asked, gesturing toward the flag.

"No, Morocco," said Hicham Chami, 29. I apologized profusely, and he explained he was there supporting his illegal friends, who are not criminals.

I thought the gaffe meant it was time for me to call it a day, and I was climbing the steps out of Grant Park when I heard drumbeats. I turned around and saw a phalanx of teens in black and camouflage, being led by four or five people beating on black and red drums. They had black flags and red flags and some had flags with an "A" in a circle -- the symbol of anarchy. The anarchists were the most organized group I had seen all day.

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