Guest post by Cathenry.
Forbes magazine recently provided nine impacting lessons on customer service learned by Forbes’ Young Entrepreneurs Council on their road to business success. Most savvy businesspeople will resonate with the suggestions. To unwrap further by including relevant examples, a brief series of posts on each lesson follows.
“The Customer is Not Always Right” is not the usual adage quoted in the business arena as the first lesson in the Forbes article mentioned. Some of the more prominent companies (Amazon, Wayfair, Nordstroms) have found it more cost-effective to absorb the expense of an item that didn’t meet customer standards by simply replacing it with another free-of-charge, no questions asked. Others will meet or beat a competitor’s price when pointed out to them after a customer’s due diligence of providing the price comparison. It’s arguable whether or not customers are taking advantage of this service. However, some business budgets cannot absorb such costs.
Through trial and error, there is a fine line in learning the customer isn’t always right when it comes to having their needs met. Without the benefit of the customer first being privy to the bigger picture of the service provided, this fine line gets even more opaque for those not understanding why they are wrong in their assumption of what to expect. Similar to the three ways one can interpret judicial law (literal interpretation of the law; the golden rule or intent of the law; and the common sense of the law), it takes discernment to know when to stick to company guidelines and when not to.
My litmus test while providing a service is a three-request limit when screening guests before accepting bookings in my boutique bed and breakfast (I live on-site, and my enterprise consists of three available rooms and a shared bathroom). I may start out acquiescing to the first request, but if it continues, I gently tell them that this might not be the best place to suit their needs because of the community nature of my bed and breakfast facility. I give them a referral to try elsewhere. Explaining why I have this guideline and offering other options goes far in maintaining a professional reputation of still trying to find a way to accommodate their needs. One incident from an inquiry was someone’s sensitivity to cleaning chemicals (as a rule, vinegar and baking soda are my laundry friends). Then it was her sensitivity to smells. I usually don’t burn scented candles for this reason when guests are staying, but this person was also wary of the perfume and aftershave of my other guests, which was my tipping point to the three-request limit. I determined that this guest is too high maintenance, and it takes the joy out of hosting them. Trust me. They will come up with more specific exceptions should they stay. For example, I am a no-smoking facility, but if the guest is the only one booked, they can smoke outside on the front porch as long as they clean up after themselves. I explain to prospective smoking guests to anticipate a no-smoking policy and that should I have another booking, then the guideline will be enforced without exception.
As pointed out in the Forbes article, when service providers make too many sacrifices, the business loses the overall ambiance or character that is part and parcel of their business reputation.
Cathenry has operated a boutique bed and breakfast enterprise in her home since 2014. Her business goal is to give guests a positive and memorable customer service-driven bed and breakfast experience. She always has gravitated to businesses demonstrating sound professional ethics, clear communication, and successful customer service. Having known customer service advocate Mark Lusky for more than 11 years, collaborating as a guest blogger is a natural outgrowth of their association.
Drawing on her extensive hospitality, hosting, event planning and customer outreach experience, Cat brings to the table unique perspectives and insights that expand the gravitas of this customer service-driven blog. She also brings to bear intense curiosity stemming from serving as a former reporter, teacher, and organizational coach with certified training.
As research and curating of information have long been Cat passions, she also will offer the perspectives and insights of third-party subject matter experts in the field of customer service as part of her guest blogger contributions.