In Small Business Blog

My youngest daughter is in kindergarten and attends school half days, Monday to Friday. It definitely makes it more difficult to have a productive day when I drop my children off at school at 9am and then have to return to pick up my youngest daughter at noon. Thanks to technology, having a mobile office makes having a productive day much easier. In fact, I am in a coffee shop as I write this.

I have been to this coffee shop before, but it has been about 15 years! It is a great little coffee shop nestled in an older residential neighbourhood. I love the atmosphere, but ever since I have taken my seat and started sipping on my first coffee today, my eyes begin to tear up. These were not tears of sadness, nor tears of joy. I think they were actually cutting up onions in the back and the “mist” has filled the air. I began to think about first impressions as it has been so long since I have visited this cafe.

We must think like a customer—developing solutions to problems that exist.

A couple weeks ago, my daily search for a suitable coffee shop to work at landed me in a coffee shop that a friend told me about. I arrived and walked through the doors gazing around for wall plugs. Without wall plugs, my visit would be brief as my laptop would maybe last an hour with just the battery. I glance to my left and see a door propped open by an older gentleman waiting for a small child finish drying off his hands with paper towel.

I stepped up to the front counter with one customer in front of me. My eyes looked right and to my horror, like the outline of a dead body, lay a large amount of vomit. The immediate connection to the child in the bathroom helped me connect the dots. What do I do? I was expecting a staff member to be there cleaning up the mess, but they seemed to continue on with business as usual. I made for the door to find another coffee shop for the day.

I have four children and understand that vomit happens. I really felt for the gentleman that was caring for the child. This was my first impression of this cafe, and though they had little to do with the sick child incident, the cleanup probably should have taken precedence over serving the next latte. I have since visited this cafe and am happy to report that the mess was cleaned up. πŸ™‚ It is a great little coffee shop, as my friend mentioned, but it sure made me think about first impressions.

As business owners, what are we doing to ensure all customers have an experience that will make them return or tell their friends? We must think like a customer, dissecting our service methods, developing solutions to problems that exist. It is said “Prevention is the best medicine”, and finding potential problems before they occur will save time and money in the long run.

Without mentioning the business, what is the worst first impression you have had with a business? What was the best first impression? Comment below, we’d love to hear about it.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Eric
    Reply

    I always like to think that bigger stores do not have worse service, but they take the time to prove me wrong everytime. We bought some camping gear at a big store, along with groceries that we usually purchase there. One of these items was a folding frying pan, that we did not get a chance to use until our second trip out. All of the other gear worked fine, and I tossed the reciept on our first trip. Fast forward a couple of weekends, I am cooking my bacon and realize that the non stick finish is coming off the pan. We are now out a pan for the trip, and our breakfast! So, when we take the pan back to the big store to get some money back, get an extrememly rude run around about “proving” it came from there and not having the reciept from the “customer service” desk. I even made time to come back and talk directly to the store manager. He is even worse to deal with over a 19 dollar pan, dropping the ball to make a smart choice.
    I am familiar with this particular store, because I used to be a vendor for them two year prior. Knowing a bit about how they operate, they would have sent that pan back to the supplier and subtracted the full cost from the next supplier invoice (forcing them to make the return! Because who would argue with this big store and risk losing that contract). Assuming the mark up was 100%, the 9 dollars they would have been out (until they jammed thier supplier) should have been easy to carry. On the other hand, we used to buy about 400 dollars worth of groceries there. The average markup on grocery items is 30%, or 120 dollars a month minimum.
    My wife and I discussed it, and we will no longer be shopping at that store for anything we need. I know, I don’t want to sound like the arrogant customer here, but we gave them more than enough chances to make this (and other negative experiences) right. This is from a company that says customers will get “100% satisfaction guarentee”, but does not try to live up to that motto because they have little percieved competition.
    It was quite refreshing to source our groceries from a new location, and have found that the price is comparable to the last place with many remarkable differences. Businesses that claim to be built on service, but cannot prove it to anybody, slowly become forgotten by everybody.

    • Ryan Boutin
      Reply

      It amazes me that any company would place such a value on a product over a person that pays their wages. A $9 pan is hardly worth losing a customer over. The problem occurs when you have people who are in customer service that are not best suited for customer service. A better job placement may be stocking shelves. Most people are honest and are not trying to screw the big company out of a couple bucks… especially when there are obviously signs of a faulty product. Thanks for your input. πŸ™‚

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