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Better Business Idea #70

Avoid giving your customers unpleasant surprises

© 2004 by Michael C. Gray

November 22, 2004

"Meet me here at 6:30 p.m."

Janet and I took the last Greyline tour from Washington D.C. to Williamsburg, Virginia. The bus driver showed us where we were to meet him at the end of the day, by the old mental hospital. Then he dropped us off at the other end of town, near the House of Burgesses.

According to the description of the tour, the bus was to return to Washington, D.C. from Williamsburg at 7 p.m.

We had a great day, working our way through the former Virginia capital. Then we had dinner at a nice restaurant and took time for dessert. As we were walking down the street to the meeting place, imagine our shock when at 6:28 p.m., the bus drove past us! We tried waving and chasing the bus until we saw it drive around a corner. Then we went to the meeting place, hoping it would return. It didn't.

A shuttle bus took us to the Visitors Center and from there we found our way to a local hotel. The desk clerk checked the bus and train schedules. The last train left at 4:30 p.m. We spent the night and took the train back to Washington D.C. the next morning.

The bus driver might have had a good reason for leaving at 6:30 p.m. Maybe he had a family event to get to, like a birthday party, or was meeting a relative at the airport.

But we think that bringing people to a strange place and expecting them to be at the meeting place using those instructions wasn't reasonable.

For clarity, all he needed to say was, "Folks, I need to leave at 6:30 p.m. sharp, so please meet me here at 6:15 p.m. or you could miss the bus."

What are you or your employees doing that irritates your customers? Nordstrom has gone to the extreme to please its customers. It has given refunds for goods it didn't even sell. Read the complaint letters that your customers send to your company. Ask your customers what they would alter or improve about how you do business with them. Establish procedures to help minimize "key irritations". Have training sessions with your employees to discuss these issues and teach them how to avoid them.

We know it costs considerably more to get a new customer than to keep an existing customer happy. We also know the best source of new customers is customers that we already have.

So, "put a plug in the drain" of your "business bathtub," and you'll enjoy more business success.

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