Customer Service Might Be All That Matters.


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As I write this I am in a vineyard in Traverse City, my wife and I along with a couple we love to travel with are sharing a bottle of wine and taking in the sunshine.

5 minutes before this serene moment, we nearly left the winery.

When we arrived at the winery there were two employees behind bar one of which growled at us when we walked in, the other — she rolled her eyes. Now normally I would have simply left, there are a lot of wineries I could spend my time and money at — this one however, is my favorite (although clearly not for the customer service).

We ignored the lack of service and slid the bottle across the bar took our glasses and walked outside to enjoy the moment. But I cannot help wondering, why do you have this job?

If the mid-afternoon drunk crowd who likely buys more than the sober morning crowd is enough to ruin your day, pick another line of work. The world is so full of choices for the customer and the employee you need not waste time in a place where you don’t fit or maybe don’t care to.

I certainly understand that tourists can be a bit much, but an hour later I am at another winery where a full time realtor has taken a part-time job at the winery so she can be around people with “such great energy,” this woman was spectacular, moving through customers, getting their tastings, explaining the wine, all with a HUGE smile on her face the entire time. This particular winery is good, but not my favorite. However, yesterday I bought more wine there than I did at all the other spots we visited because she made the trip.

I think about customer service a lot because it is the easiest thing to fix in the same way it is the easiest thing to overlook. The paradox of the modern customer experience.

  • You want to hire cheap but it costs you in the end.
  • You don’t have the time to train because you spend your time wondering why your bottom line comes in but doesn’t buy anything.
  • Only a high school student would want this job, so it doesn’t matter who I hire.
  • I am the only game in town so it doesn’t matter.
  • My wine is the best around so customer service isn’t important.

With the market in constant flux and your customer constantly on the go they make it hard to get to know them, but not impossible.

While I won’t name the vineyard here, I will tell the story of the terrible customer service more than I will tell the mythology I experienced at 45 North. When I worked at The Limited we used to have a sign on the door that said if a customer has a great experience they will tell 5 friends, if that same customer has a bad experience they will tell 65 — this was before the connection economy, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, now they tell the planet.

So when I meet a person who takes a customer facing job for fun because she loves people, or the coffee barista at Pour in Cleveland who remembers my name when there are 60 or more days between visits, or even the boss remembers your children’s birthdays without the use of Facebook, I wonder what the marketing world would look like if people got up every day with the express purpose of making others happy. The “why” of putting others first or the art of creating a life much bigger than yourself.

Sure, that might seem pollyanna but snark, sarcasm, and indifference are the easiest emotional gears to operate — I am interested in the people doing the hard stuff, actually caring about the people who depend on them in whatever sense of the word that means.

Go get to know your customers before they get to know your competition.

Eric HultgrenComment