Those who have read my books or articles, hear me speak at events, or have attended my presentations, are aware of my passion for this topic and that I prefer to call it customer experience, because to me that is what it is.
Good, bad, or indifferent, it is the experience that will influence how we feel about any business we may deal with and of course wherever we will have any further dealings with them.
With the Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday the 7th August, celebrating each winner's commitment to providing consistent exceptional customer experiences, it amazed me to receive a telephone call about an appalling situation.
The following occurred at a business where they represent the clients who pay the contracts, and provide for locals and visitors alike. A well dressed and well groomed customer entered with the intent of buying something special for a home he had just purchased, to find the two staff members enjoying cheese and crackers with a glass of wine. Nothing wrong with that at all.
I will share the customer's story.
There was a man and a woman sitting behind the counter as he entered, the woman said hello and the man stared and said nothing as he was sucking through his front teeth. As the customer browsed in the rear of the gallery, the woman from the counter pretended to be looking at something towards the private studio area in the rear of the ground floor, and was standing to the side for a minute or two watching him. He actually had to look up at her before she acknowledged him, when she then approached to ask if she could be of assistance.
The customer said he was admiring some pieces and was happy to browse for the moment. The woman returned to the counter and continued with the wine and cheese.
Making his way back through the gallery to the front where the two staff were, the two immediately stopped talking as he entered.
Feeling a tad uncomfortable but still interested in finding the perfect items for his new house, he continued walking near the counter and looked over at them. The woman smoked, but said nothing, the man sat there looking him up and down a few times, also saying nothing, and started sucking through his front teeth again.
Feeling very uncomfortable at this point, the customer actually politely said to the both of them "I feel as though I am interfering your afternoon". The woman looked her head repeatedly with a slight smile and a mm-mm, the man still sat there staring and sucking in silence. At this point he was feeling so uncomfortable that he was not taking any real interest in anything in their gallery. He did a very quick loop of the rest of the gallery before acknowledging them with a polite thank you and left.
Returning to give them another opportunity, he walked in to find them still as they were, but the man now had his feet on the counter. Announcing that he had in fact just purchased a house that day, there was no response. This was not a good start and naturally he was in a great mood, however was completely deflated by the stares and attitude of the man.
When he said "I had come here to purchase a few things for my new home …", the man's legs shot down, body quickly asked "which pieces were you interested in?" Astonished at the transformation, the customer said "it should not be a matter of which pieces I wanted to buy but …", immediately he threw his legs back up on the counter and folded his arms! Closed, disinterested, end of discussion. The customer responded with "Is that it? This is what I'm talking about, it's about customer service", to which the staff member said abruptly and aggressively "I'm not interested in a lecture from you", as he pointed with Open palmed hand, "there's the door, there's the door".
Dumbstruck, the customer looked at them andave them the same polite thank you and left.
He assures me he will not be stepping foot in those promises again, and will make it a point to tell as many people as he can not take their money there too. As this customer knows a few of the artists exhibiting there, he will be passing this experience on to them too.
You can see why I was shocked to hear this story.
Without the gallery is a not for profit organization with very deep pockets, I am sure the bottom line is an important part of their business plan. If they are the owners, maybe they need to consider another line of business. If they are employees, hopefully someone will alert the owners to what their customers are actually experiencing.
The artist's perspective is another aspect to consider. Each artist pays a generous commission for their work to be represented and sold, so I am sure they would be disappointed to know this is how their name is promoted, not to mention the loss of potential sales through lack of interest and poor customer experience.
This is in direct contrast to a Launceston based organization I had the privilege of speaking with last week. The CEO of this particular company has created a definite culture where their client is the prime priority and the client experience is always well above any their competitors offer.
They deal on the world stage against huge multinational companies, yet continue to grow and thrive due to this dedication fostered from the top down and the bottom up, building strong relationships with their clients as well as within their staff.
They value both, which is the key to a truly successful business of any size.
"There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference." That little difference is attitude, "The big difference is whether it is positive or negative." -W. Clement Stone