by Rich Klein
In today’s world, really exceptional customer service is the way to go to ensure long-term customer satisfaction. In fact, when I began training for my current job, it was noted to us at least twice that many of us (including me) were selected because we have really good phone skills and that we have the ability to communicate complex ideas.
I wrote last week about a local restaurant that fell short of expectations and then abruptly closed. I was actually across the street from that location yesterday and can tell you there was a big sign on the door confirming it. If you remember, my biggest issues were that we had to wait what seemed to be at least 40 minutes for our check and during the two hours we were there, no manager ever walked the floor to check on how everyone was doing. They left us with a token freebie or two and a mild apology.
To get the response we should have gotten in the first place it actually took eight posts on Facebook as well as a series of emails back and forth to the owner whose email was provided to me by the person who monitors Hoffbrau Steaks’ Facebook page. This was the first response: “I did get your email, and have not had a chance to respond. All I can do is apologize. We are very sad to have had to close that location. We gave it all we had, but just did not do enough volume to keep it going and I am sorry about your negative experience of Saturday night. We wish you well.”
Now do note, there is a location within driving or train distance from my house and a really savvy customer-service oriented owner would have said something like “How about if you ever venture downtown, stop in and have a meal on us?” It took an email back from me to remind her of that. If I never showed up, they weren’t out anything.
“Rich, Normally I would have offered you a complimentary dinner to make up for your negative experience, but since you had indicated you ‘now had a useless appetizer / dessert gift card’, I was under the impression you wouldn’t be willing to travel to our Dallas West End location. Our mission at Hoffbrau Steaks is that everyone has Steaks ‘n Smiles, which would include you. If you would like to give us a try again, I would happily send you a voucher for a dinner for 2 on us, which could certainly be redeemed at the Dallas West End location. Please send me your mailing address and I’ll drop it in the mail.”
If and when the vouchers arrive, we will consider the matter closed and we may even take them up on the offer. However, this whole experience is a good reminder to always do your best to make sure everyone is satisfied as you never know who will post on Facebook, write a review or post on a blog. Just remember, this is 2013 and the world has changed from even just 15 or 20 years ago.
Putting your best foot forward right out of the gate is vital and that’s a great lesson for card shop owners and show promoters. Plenty of businesses are responsive to customers and if you don’t work hard to earn business, those people will take it from you.
Fortunately, I do have a few really good customer stories to tell in comparison.
First, one thing I strive for now that I’m back doing a show each month is to work with my regular customers. I really like helping my regulars get the cards they need at a fair price. Here is an example of helping a collector that I did recently.
One of my regulars is a real nice man who owns several Jersey Mike’s in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is an avid Reds collector. A few months ago, I sold him a 1968 Topps Lee May (which is a brutally tough card) at full book although the card was ex at best. We agreed that was a fair transaction and he still spends and visits me every show.
This month when he came by, I told him I had a better 1968 Topps Lee May for him. We finally found the card, he agreed with me and I told him to return the other card the next time he saw me. I had gotten the Lee May in a “grab-box” in a Sterling Sports Auction lot (I should mention that Lee Behrens is the fastest shipper I know. My check cleared on a Tuesday and the package was at my door on Thursday). Anyway, yes at some point I could have sold the better condition card but should not my steady customer get the better copy?
The Texas Rangers AA team, the Frisco Rough Riders is based nearby. In April, they were supposed to play the AAA Round Rock team in an exhibition. The day was a bit dreary but I headed to Frisco to go to the game. I didn’t realize it but since the weather was not guaranteed, the Rangers had canceled the game. Thus I showed up to an empty ballpark. A nice young man named Mr. Silver saw me walking around and understood my frustration. We chatted and he made note of what had happened.
A few weeks later I spoke to a very nice Frisco team rep named Ross Lansford. He had the complete information in his notes, and asked me to mail back my tickets for the game and within a day I had the new tickets emailed to me. In addition, although we love our seats which are on the aisle and 17 rows up, they were nice enough to move our seats to 3rd row aisle. We could almost hear the conversation on the field and got the extra bonus of seeing long-time Texas Ranger Ian Kinsler in a rehab assignment. Just a nice gesture by my ticket rep and I will also say that the Rough Riders pride themselves and rightly so on great customer service.
The final case of really good customer service came from my visit to Nick’s Sports Cards this weekend. Nick and Debbie Redwine have been in the same location for 24 years. I walked in over the weekend because I had some gift cards I wanted to use and knew Nick had the Archives vintage card redemptions which I hoped he would redeem for me.
Think about that for a minute. He made an immediate connection by saying he knew me and plus he added a little boost to my ego! Trust me, every writer likes knowing they are being read.
I should mention, by the way, that there were at least 15 people in the store when I came in and Nick’s store is also extremely user-friendly. One can touch many cards (they are in holders) and there is a lot of eye candy to view in showcases and behind the counters as well. Nick’s store is well organized. A few minutes later we figured out how much I had in gift cards and he took care of my redemption. I bought a box, he let me keep the change and left by saying “Please stop by more often, you do know a few things about sports cards and it’s always good to get your perspective.”
In the few minutes I was in his store, he made the emotional connection with me, made the sale and made me feel good as I left. You don’t stay more than 24 years in the same location without those people skills. I forgot to ask about Debbie but she is doing well also. And Nick assured me he is about to sign another long-term lease so his local customers will continue to enjoy being treated right.
So, if you are a store owner, weekend dealer or show promoter, do you want to be like Hoffbrau or be like Nick’s? I would wager that we’d all choose Nick’s every time.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]