In March 2020, everything changed. You remember, right? All the restaurants, schools, and many businesses closed for 4-6 weeks as we determined how to do business safely. As soon as restaurants reopened, I found myself ordering to-go, dining in when I could and buying extra just to help support the businesses. I was super patient with the changes in service because I thought it would not be forever. For example, when I was able to go to the coffee shop and they told me I was parked in a pick-up zone, I got up and moved my car instead of arguing that I wasn’t actually in that zone. When the restaurant menus weren’t updated to reflect the offerings during the pandemic, I rapidly changed my order to something that was available.
So, what is good service anyway? I consider some pretty elementary courtesies good service. I’m not even asking for excellent service right now. When I work with a business who provides excellent service, they knock my socks off!
If a business asks me to be on hold in a pleasant demeanor and tells me how long it will be before I speak to someone, I consider that good.
If a business cannot answer a question but promises to find the answer and get back to me and actually follows through on that commitment, that’s good.
If a business serves what is offered on their menu, that is good.
In essence, if a business does what it says it’s going to do, that is doing good business. Many local businesses are doing better than good and their growth in revenues are proving it in spite of the pandemic. For those who aren’t providing good service, their bottom line is surely negatively impacted in both the short and long term.
I took a recent trip across the country to drive back through eight states and multitudes of counties. I witnessed different expectations, offerings, and restrictions regarding how people were doing business during the pandemic. My noticing is that if a business continued to be open, most of them raised their prices by 20% or more. As a local business owner, I get it. The pandemic created more expenses to safely do the work. There are also fixed costs of doing business that still must be paid regardless of how much revenue is actually brought in for the month/year. That being said, I find myself growing less patient with bad service.
I called a local hotel to ask about a special offering. After I was placed on hold for seven minutes, the woman who came back on the phone asked me three times what I was asking for and used a condescending tone. Then she gave up trying to understand and help me. She asked me to hold again (so she could get someone on the phone who could help me). It’s not being on hold that is bothersome. It’s the tone in which she spoke to me. I know. It was a busy weekend at the hotel with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. Maybe I should have had more sense than to call that evening.
My local Starbucks, that some may say don’t need my money, has offered a diminished experience as of late. My husband and I typically go there daily. We have been talking about going to a different Starbucks, a different type of coffee shop, buying our own espresso machine or just quit drinking coffee all together. For us, part of the value of going to Starbucks is the experience.
After talking to a local franchisee who attributed the ongoing growth of his business throughout the pandemic was the relationships that he and his team continue to build. That part of his business model did not change. They were still serving clients albeit differently and they were still maintaining relationships with their clients and families.
Another colleague continued to serve her students virtually the best she could even though she wasn’t bringing in any revenue. She did the right thing. It’s not easy to do the right thing most of the time, but during a pandemic, sometimes it’s unprecedented.
Even Gonzaga University’s Women Lead Conference is sweetening the deal for virtual conference goers. They are doing everything they can to add value to the conference, not take away from it.
I’m sure that part of my expectation comes from the great service I’ve received at these and other businesses even during the pandemic. This has always been the case, right? That’s why we patronize specific businesses.
They treat us well.
They keep their promises.
They are consistent.
They address issues as soon as they arise without shaming the customer.
At a time when every dollar and customer counts, businesses should really want to serve customers because as customers, we want to be served.
My concern is that mediocre service for some business is becoming the new normal. (I hate those words.) I guarantee that when things begin to open up again in our state, pricing is not going to go down. Will we continue to patronize these businesses? It depends on us as the consumer. Are we willing to continue to be patient and allow this to be our new norm? Or are we going to try something different to find a business that earns our support every time we have an exchange?
My two cents? It’s a great time to try something new, especially if the service provider you have isn’t valuing you as a customer. If you run a business, consider checking out the book pictured at the top. It will change the way you serve your customers in a meaningful way.