Nov 042011
 

Christy Lorio (photo by Leslie Almeida)

Everyone wants to support local businesses, right? I mean, how can you not love that mom and pop store that’s been on the same corner for 20 years or the boutique business owner that remembers your name every time you come in? Personally, I want to spend my money at that new, tucked-away shop and my old favorites just the same and I always recommend new restaurants and quaint boutiques to my friends so they can discover these places as well. But if I have a less-than-stellar experience somewhere, chances are I’ll pass that information on as well.  Unfortunately, not all establishments are made equal and some provide truly awful customer service.

This past weekend I had such a sour experience at a popular restaurant that I’ve been patronizing for the past 12 years that I won’t be returning, at least not anytime soon. I wanted to cool down before penning a letter to management, but I hardly doubt they will care, since I’m clearly just a number to them after they way I was treated. What gives? Don’t they want me to return? Were the servers overworked that night? What kind of restaurant operates by serving food to a customer in a go box without telling them that they are closed? Apparently the type that doesn’t appreciate my willingness to give them money.

I remember once I was strolling along Magazine Street and tried entering a small jewelry and accessories store.  The door was locked with a “Be back in 5” sign ambiguously hung on the door. Was five minutes a half hour ago or 10 minutes ago? Lucky for me, the shop girl was returning just as I walked up, so she let me into the store. Without a word to me, she immediately plopped down behind a computer, probably anxiously awaiting a friends’ Facebook status update. Even if I wanted to buy something this made me not want to spend money in the store so I left empty handed. It would have been nice to at least get a half-ass smile and a hello.

My friend Ashley Robison and I recently conversed about these frustrations, via social media no less.

“There are a few retailers in town who have been letting me down so much,” Ashley said. “I don’t care how long I’ve shopped there. I’m at the point with a lot of businesses where no, you have to earn my money. I don’t care how great you were in the past. I don’t like when businesses make it hard for me to give them my money!”

With the popularity of review sites such as Yelp and Urban Spoon and phone apps for Twitter, Facebook, and FourSquare to name a few, customers are so hyper-connected that they can leave a negative comment before they’ve even left the establishment. All it takes is a disgruntled patron to tell everyone on their “friends” list to avoid your store like the plague. How’s that for word of mouth? Of course I would hope that most people would rather write glowing reviews and get excited to spread the news about the hip new coffee shop vs. slander someone’s name online. The only way to prevent your reputation getting bad mouthed worse than Kim Kardashian’s marriage choices is to always make the customer first priority. Everyone makes mistakes, food takes too long to be prepared, misunderstandings happen, but the very basic, simple “Hello, do you need help finding anything?” goes a long way. There is really no big secret to customer service, act like a human, make the customer first priority and kill them with kindness when weird situations pop up.  I don’t need bells and whistles or an overbearing sales associate, I just want quick, friendly service and if you remember my name that’s just an added perk. If you don’t want to be bothered helping me, don’t worry, you won’t see me again anyway.

Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.

  8 Responses to “Christy Lorio: Customer service”

  1. So true. This has happened to me with several local places in the past 2 months or so.

  2. I remember after Katrina when Magazine stores were screaming for more business, but when I went shopping on a Sunday, many were closed.

  3. I visited a Magazine Street retailer yesterday. The girl could barely be bothered to ring me up. The shop features New Orleans centric items. There were tourists asking questions, and she was visibly annoyed with them. Parking isn’t easy in this part of town. I have to park a couple of blocks away and walk to your shop…at least act like you are happy to have shoppers!

  4. Preach on! This city, especially Uptown shops have some of the worst customer service (customer no service) I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing.

  5. If you do get bad customer service, and you normally have had good experience with the store, I’d write a letter to the owner. They may not know their shop girl would rather surf the internet than help their customers.

    I will say with the recession, good customer service is key because people are less willing to part with their money. Repeated bad write ups on social media could really hurt a business, as well as traditional word of mouth.

  6. Let the owner know–you’d be doing them a favor!

  7. KCD, You are so right! Very often an owner has hired people who interviewed well yet turn out to be unhappy with their job then take it out on shoppers. You truly do help the owner by letting her/him know about your dissatisfaction.
    BTW, shoppers, remember everyone has a bad day now & then…

  8. I suggest – when businesses belong to groups like Magazine Street Merchant Association or Oak Street Merchants Association – the organizing group needs to have (required) suggestion and comment lock boxes in the store and also invite customers to write to them. These associations should maintain a relationship with their members & let them know how their businesses are treating customer and driving away business form the area.

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