“You are an hour late, we are out of that”

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  Today’s blog title was the response a friend of mine received the other day when he went into a sandwich shop for lunch.  He told me his first response was, “Wow, what did I do to deserve that answer?”  That was the same thought that I had when he told me the story.
   The reason he patronized this particular sandwich shop is that they make very good sandwiches and have several different kinds and flavors of different breads.  This shop is not the cheapest shop in town, however, they make great sandwiches!
   As we sat and had lunch under the shade tree at the courthouse, ( a fund raiser for a charity) we discussed how the counter clerk could have positively handled this exchange.  My first thought was where was the owner– did he/she hear this exchange?  Is this the type of exchange that they tolerate their employees to make?  Maybe the counter clerk did not know any better or had not been trained in the finer essences of customer service, however, having the customer feel that the problem was of his making is wrong!  Especially since the shop has a reputation for having good food!  One only knows that in the food business today, there are lots of places to spend a food dollar– running a customer off will insure that they will never return to your shop.  In all likelihood, the client just became a customer of your competitor, at your expense!!
   OK, so how should this encounter have been treated differently?  Here is how—-
  A.  The clerk may say, “We just ran out of that bread, however, we just baked this new loaf of a different flavor bread, may I make your sandwich with the new bread?”
  B.  The clerk may say, “We just got a hot new loaf right out of the oven, would you like to try that?”
There are probably 10000 more ways in which a negative (running out of one particular flavor of bread) can be turned into a positive (try another flavor you may not have tried before).  We always want to turn a negative into a positive whenever possible.  In most cases, this is easily done.
   As we have addressed in other blog entries, the key here is good employee training and strong customer relationship skills.  Sadly, it appears both were lacking in this real world, honest, example.
   We never want the customer to feel that whatever challenge the business may experience was caused by the customer.  However, in this case, that appears to have been the case.
   Being the owner of the business, strong customer relationships and employee training are critical to continued economic viability and success.  Never allow the customer to leave the store on a negative note.  He/she may never return.  Always try to find a positive feature when a negative experience occurs.  There is always a strong, positive point to be recognized when a negative matter occurs.  It does, however, sometimes require some deep seeking and searching!
   Did the sandwich shop loose a customer permanently?  No, I don’t think so.  The sandwiches are too good, however, there is no reason to alienate any customer.  See how your business responds to stock outage.  The response you get will tell you a lot about your organizational climate and environment!  If the organizational climate and environment is not one you are happy with, today is the day to begin the change process!

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