Monday morning. A small oasis of calm once the kids are in school. Hubby and I sneak off to our local deli for a coffee and to do what all adult couples must surely do these days, compare the apps on our phones. We also play a game entitled “will any of the staff smile at us today”? Because, you see, it seems that good customer service, the kind that develops loyalty and keeps you coming back again and again, is increasingly rare.
Our local deli is in quite an attractive spot and decorated in that ‘faux French bistro’ style that has been rampantly popular for quite a while – all ornamental chickens, railway clocks and bunting. It does a good trade (I imagine) in lunches with olives, cheeses, a range of organic quiches and good coffee to go. It stocks some of the more niche food brands. It’s clean (including the toilet!).
But the mood is always sombre to glacial. Coffee is deposited on tables with not so much as a “and how are you today?” or a “can I get you anything else”? We have been there enough to be recognised. We do not linger over one cup. Bacon panini and tea cakes are purchased. When we walk out of the door, we always say thank you. Words which usually die in the air. It baffles me that any business which is running and surviving in this tough economic climate doesn’t do everything it can to capture its regulars and ensure they don’t wander off.
I recently swapped hairdressers after about 15 years (set in my ways – moi?) because despite colouring my hair for most of those years, they refused to colour any more unless I presented myself for a skin test 24 hours BEFORE my usual colouring marathon. Same procedures, same stylist, same hair dye.
This particular salon was run by a lady who would swan in and air kiss her staff whilst ignoring her bread and butter regulars completely. After 15 years, I’m sure she must have recognised me unless she was too myopic to be cutting hair any longer.
We have another eaterie in the village and hubby and I will have to at least check it out. Our deli has managed to commit the cardinal faux pas of upsetting lots of the local mums due to a protest about taking prams into the shop. I know there are many who will have some sympathy with this as they do tend to form an unwieldy blockade, but mums with time for a coffee and a snack after dropping off the kids must surely contribute something to the coffers.
If you run a business in a small community, I think you have to make every effort to be part of the community – local sponsorships, contributing prizes to local events, even a loyalty scheme for regulars. But good customer service is critical. Because it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if it’s not delivered with a smile, you can wave your regulars goodbye – to quote from Casablanca “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life”.