For thirty-some years, most of my income came from the sale of radio advertising. No radio station every made a buck because it gave better news or played the best music; essentially every dollar comes from the sale of advertising.
So I’ve tried to return the favor by spending my money with advertisers. That’s why we spend a lot of our grocery dollars at Miller and Sons in Verona. They’ve invested advertising dollars on this website, some of which have trickled down into my wallet.
They know they’re up against “the big guys”. There’s everything you could ever possibly want in their store, which has come along way from the medium-size operation it was years ago. But they still carry your stuff out to your car for you - every time - and they sponsor local teams with local youngsters, and all that stuff LOCAL businesses do.
If you ever look lost in one of the aisles, as I often do with the list Toni has prepared for me, a friendly store employee will come up and say “whatcha lookin’ for” and help you find it. Those “sons” in the name “Miller and Sons” learned customer service from their dad, who’s a master of it.
But, the last true goddess of customer service, as my wife refers to her, is Lori, who runs the business for the eye doctor my wife and I have been seeing ever since moving to Madison. Dr. Schanel’s office is on State Street, so it’s always a hoot to visit.
A few days ago my wife cracked a contact lens, which happens with sufficient frequency that it’s just a phone call to Lori to take care of the problem. I just have to call and say “left eye” and Lori takes care of it. Toni’s prescription and our debit card number are on file there, so Lori orders the lens and drops it in the mail to us when it comes in.
Early last Wednesday afternoon, Lori called and said “you work out of your home now, don’t you?” Toni’s contact had come in, and Lori said “with the blizzard or ice storm or whatever’s coming, I think the mail is going to be kind of iffy…and you guys travel over the holidays, don’t you? How about if I just call Badger Cab and have them run it over to you? That way you’ll have it for sure.”
Lori should be teaching PhD courses in customer service at the UW Business School.
If you Google “why customers leave”, you’ll find out there’s agreement among marketing experts that somewhere around 75% say it’s because of poor customer service. My wife and I walked out of a big-box sporting goods store a few weeks ago because the “service personnel” were too busy shooting the bull to bother to help us unload well over a hundred bucks. So we went a few blocks away to the LOCAL store - where we really didn’t think they’d have that big a selection - and were pleasantly surprised, bought high-end hiking shoes, and will go back there again.
I was in the UPS store at Pier 37 in Monona last week, shipping off presents. They were busy, and I mean “slammed” busy. But the franchise owner - a local guy - greeted every single customer the minute they walked into the door, and said “we’re busy, but don’t worry, we’ll get to you in just a couple minutes”. And when my turn came, he said “thanks for waiting”.
The very first “boss” I ever had - the late Ray Baerwald, who owned the A&W Drive-In in Hortonville, gave me the best lesson ever in customer service. He said “the customer may not always be right, but they’re always the customer”.
Such a simple concept, but so right.