I like to think of myself as not only good at customer service, but in my off hours, I like to think that I am a good customer, too. I have been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between the service person and the customer. I am sure we all have after the Jet Blue flight attendant had his last choice words, and then got out of the plane with the emergency exit! It was interesting to see how people viewed that incident.
Who do you relate to the most; the Jet Blue customer or the attendant? It seems most people felt some level of understanding with the attendant. He became a hero to some. The talk at my salon was that customers have become more and more rude and out of control. And this was coming from my clients! Tonight at dinner with our neighbors, it was decided that this flight attendant is seen as a hero, and people are cheering him on. Perhaps we have all been in a service job at one point and have had a bad experience with a rude or crazy customer.
So, what does it mean to be a good customer? Does that mean that you are the biggest spender? That the more money you spend in a shop gives you “good customer” standing? Many of my favorite customers are not the ones who are able to purchase high ticket items at my salon. I look forward to seeing these women because they are thoughtful, punctual, value time, they do not “no show” for appointments…and if they do, they offer to pay for the missed appointment.
I guess they are the kind of customer that I try to be too. Whether I am at the hairdresser, or making a dinner reservation, I am always aware of the appointment or reservation time. If I must cancel, I give 24 hours notice, and if I can’t with the hairdresser I offer to pay. With dinner reservations, if I can’t make it, I always call so they can give the table to another party. You don’t have to collect etiquette books to be a thoughtful, considerate customer.
I look back on my teens and twenties and I wish I could make amends, I really don’t think I understood what my role was as a customer! But we keep learning and keep getting better.
I have been lucky to have great clients, and wonderful places I frequent where I am treated like a valued customer. But I have heard some horror stories over the years. People returning used underwear because they know a particular department store has an amazing return policy. Vacationers who trash rental properties. People who use almost everything in the jar and then return it to the cosmetic counter. Clients who repeatedly no show hairdressers and do not offer to pay for the missed appointment, or call to apologize. Customers who view themselves as wine experts and return expensive bottles of wine at restaurants simply because they don’t like it. (You may only return wine to the server if the bottle is “corked”. Otherwise, you should know your regions and your labels). Customers who have unrealistic expectations of what the service person can do for them, and become outraged when their demands are not met.
Both the customer, and the service person have a role to play, and I would much prefer to be the customer that everyone looks forward to seeing rather than the one who service people and staff dread seeing. I am sure many people don’t even realize they are in the dreaded category. A little self-awareness goes a long way! I have collected etiquette books for over 15 years, and I have some dating back to the 1800’s, but very few focus on the subject of “What Makes a Great Customer?” There must be an app for that, somewhere.
Stacya Silverman is President of Beauty Alert!, a system of labeling cosmetics so consumers know when it is time to toss them. Her beauty expiration dates are also an iphone app, which can be used to log in all of your favorite products and keep track of when they expire.