Thursday, March 25, 2010

Two Kickers And Customer Service

Yesterday evening after work, your intrepid blogger went shopping. Hardly blogworthy news in and of itself. But what transpired at the end of said journey is worth noting.

I was looking for a particular make and model of guitar. Back in the dim and distant past when I started playing, this particular make and model had a grand total of two different versions which weren't in fact all that different. Today? The company's online catalog shows fifty-three different models. With multiple variations within most of the different models. My guess is making it easy to know which one you want isn't high on the manufacturer's priority list.

I first went to a mega music store (name withheld to protect the guilty). Sure enough, they had at least three dozen different models. None of which were the one I was looking for. Oh well.

Next came a mega-mega everything store with a musical instruments section buried in the corner, no doubt hoping to capitalize on the Guitar Hero video game craze and the odd chance someone might want to actually play a real guitar instead of pushing buttons. They had a couple dozen different models. Again, none of which were the one I was looking for. Strike two for the evening.

I was about to call it a night when from the recesses of my memory came recollection of a little music store on the outskirts of downtown in the city housing the aforementioned mega-mega everything store. Never had been in there. Figured why not.

Naturally, it had almost the model I wanted. I waited relatively patiently for the sole employee to finish with the only other customer in the place. He then came in my direction.

He greeted me warmly, bringing over a patch cord so I could give the guitar a once-over lightly. The employee then wandered away for a few minutes. I'd like to think it was so I could try the guitar out without him hovering over me, which is the case in pretty much every other guitar store I've ever visited. It could be because I'm that atrocious a player and he couldn't bear being within earshot of my noodlings, but I'll go with the former explanation if you don't mind.

Eventually the employee came back over and struck up a conversation. He was knowledgeable about the guitar I was playing without trying to either impress me or lording it over me. Instead, he asked questions about what I was looking for and listened to the answers. Only then did he respond.

He understood the one I was playing was almost what I was looking for, but not exactly which meant it wouldn't be coming home with me. Nevertheless, he encouraged me to come back whenever I wanted and either retry the guitar I was currently playing or one of its relatives. He also noted I'd more than likely be able to custom order the exact one I wanted if that was my final decision.

Here are the kickers. First, the price tag was quite a bit higher than for the same model at one of the mega stores. If they had one, that is. Certainly I could order the guitar from one of the mega stores and save a not unsubstantial amount of money. However, I left the store feeling good enough about the way I was treated -- namely, as a person, not a paycheck -- to give serious consideration to the notion of ordering the exact one I wanted from the store. Granted, a lot of people would take one look at the price tag and hightail it out of there. But in this case, the personal experience and human interaction was worth the extra cost. At least to me it was.

The other point worth noting?

It was already past the store's closing time when the employee started helping me.

Moral of the story?

Customer service doesn't always produce positive results. You can't control how someone else is going to react or behave. When it works, though... it is so worth it.

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  1. That is so true that I am always amazed when rude service is the norm at some places.

    When I worked sales I sold luggage. I had a young woman come in who worked for an airline and she needed some bags. I spent a few hours with her explaining the differences and trying to find something that would do what she wanted in a price range she liked.

    In the end she said she wanted to look at some other places so I gave her the names and numbers for the other luggage place in the area.

    A few days later she came back. She said they had the same luggage we did and for a bit less, but she decided to buy it from us because I treated her like a human rather than shoving something in her hands and getting her out the door. Even better was that later the next week the rest of her flight crew came in to buy from us as well.

    Word of mouth, it can make or break you.

  2. Its a simple consumer decision; opt for no assistance at a reduced price from a large retailer ,who may or may not be there in the future. Expect that any problems with the product will not be addressed other than maybe a refund in store credit or given the 800 number to the manufacturer.
    The alternative is to purchase from the small retailer who clearly will be there in the future and if not he will have posted his home number for contact and assistance. He has a desire to support the purchaser. He has local support information on lessons, others who play in the area etc... He's provided low cost rentals to school kids in the area who otherwise wouldn't have the experience. He has integrity. He's held by being interested. He cares. I fully believe joe public is swinging back to the local resource, willing to pay a little extra, to receive a little extra. I hope I'm right. The alternative results in a society of uncaring, uninvolved, low paid, low esteemed, phone voices and the only ones in society with jobs will be UPS. ITS A NO BRAINER SUPPORT THE LOCAL GUY, HE CERTAINLY HAS SUPPORTED YOUR COMMUNITY AND WILL SUPPORT YOU AFTER YOUR PURCHASE.