May 15, 2014
We are now into our second week; and I find that during the first week, even though I was about as gracious as I am capable of being, I thanked customers far less than they thanked me:
“Thank you for doing this.”
“Welcome back to the neighborhood.”
“We’re all so happy that you are here.”
Hundreds of people have thanked me. It’s a reversal of nature. I am supposed to be thanking them for coming into our new bakery.
It was Mothers Day last Sunday and customers stood in a long line through the morning to buy all 200 bagels and 100 English muffins we had been able to make. And the bread – and the muffins, cookies, brioche and all else we had produced.
We were less than competent in serving people but ran out of nearly everything we made while our customers put up with the slow-moving line.
We’ll get better. We are learning to produce more. We have plenty of bagels and English muffins now. We are adding additional bakery foods. We’ve already started selling our croissants and Danish and I am going to be making a sourdough waffle on Saturday.
But we’ll have problems anyway. Having been through this before, I know that it takes a bit of time to figure out how to serve people well – how to manage a customer line and make it possible for customers to get help quickly.
So I thought I ought to say:
Not so long ago, I ran into someone who had shopped two times at Little Red Fox, the nice little market up the street. She told me that she had waited so long to be served that she wouldn’t go back there. I asked whether she had said that to the owners but she hadn’t.
I told her that it was a mistake to withhold. A customer who doesn’t complain deprives a retailer of information and opportunity. Just going away doesn’t help a business improve.
I know that we were irritating customers last weekend. I could see the looks of exasperation. But I do not know how many of those we irritated we lost as potential customers.
It would be a great kindness if customers had said to me, “You know: You’re not doing this very well.” I could then have said I knew it and promised we’ll get better. When customers don’t complain we don’t know as much as we want to know.
A complaint is a lot easier to deal with than a lost customer. That woman who complained to me about Little Red Fox promised that she’d go back there. I hope she did. The store then gets another opportunity to win her as a customer.
All of us want a second chance.