Commercial Business Retail

The consequences of bad (or no) service

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What are the consequences of bad service? We are told that dissatisfied customers are more vocal than satisfied customers, but how great is the damage, really?

Depending on the source, the potential damage varies. “On average, someone will tell three people about good customer service — but 14 people will hear about a bad experience,” according to Mercantile Systems Inc., a “customer experience” consulting firm. That’s a ratio of more than four to one against your business.

In his list of “13 customer service facts,” professional speaker Michael Aun says you will tell an average of five people about a positive experience, but 10 people about a negative experience. That’s “only” a two-to-one ratio.

Still, that’s just an average. “Twelve percent tell up to 20 people,” adds Aun.

Jason Pearson, an online marketing expert according to his Web site, says disgruntled customers will tell every person they know about the bad service, versus two or three about good service.

That’s a lot of negative publicity. It makes telling only 10 people about your poor service almost acceptable.

Common sense tells us there is some truth to this conventional wisdom. Bad news travels quickly, and affects your business exponentially.

However, the passage of time lessens the damage because people have short memories. Also, some of the people who are told about the bad experience will balance it against the good experiences they had at the same tire dealership.

And a small percentage of suffering customers even will forgive you, or will give you a second chance.

When all is said and done, an isolated bad service experience isn’t going to dent your bottom line.

Mistakes in judgment and performance happen.

That is why you must, as Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show” used to say, “Nip it, nip it in the bud” before it increases in frequency, or worse, becomes habit.

Steve and Sheryl Lanning, owners of Lanning Tire Sales Inc. in Sarasota, Fla., are “all about good service,” as Sheryl likes to say. Something as simple as a friendly gesture goes a long way when customers are waiting in line or experiencing sticker shock.

“I think service starts with an attitude,” says Steve. “All you have to do is look up and say, ‘We’ll be with you in a minute.’”

At Lanning Tire Sales, the goal is making the overall experience of coming into the store a good one. Out-the-door pricing helps in that regard.

“One thing I would like to see more of is for us to get out to the car when a customer arrives,” he says. Unfortunately, that is not always possible.

Although sometimes it is hard to track good service, Lanning Tire Sales has been voted the “Best Place to Buy Tires” in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Readers’ Choice poll for many years.

The Lannings even list the “10 reasons why we are the best place to buy tires” in a piece of literature displayed in the showroom. The ninth reason is reputation.

“In business, one’s reputation is everything,” reads the pamphlet. “Brick by brick, Lanning Tire has developed a reputation of superior sales, service and support by satisfying customers beyond the norm.”

I’ve had bad or suspect service from a tire dealer, but it wasn’t so egregious that it outweighed the excellent service I also received from him. However, the last three times I needed an oil change or a minor checkup, the dealer couldn’t help me.

The shop was too busy on the Saturdays I was free. I was told to call more than a few days in advance, which, in all honesty, was all the notice I gave him.

That wasn’t bad service, and I understood why the dealer couldn’t fit me in. I was glad his bays were so busy.

On all three occasions, I called another dealer, and was grateful that he was able to meet my needs each time. When it came time to buy new tires, I bought them from him.    ■

If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

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