Customer service one-on-one

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bunny Pages
Business Is A Team Sport

FROM the time we started running Thirsty Juices and Shakes and until a few months ago, my mobile phone number was printed on each cup that was served to our customers. When people were not satisfied with our products or service they sent messages directly to my phone. When they complimented us, I also got it on my phone.

Today, our company uses a centralized automated system to track customer feedback not only for Thirsty but for all our restaurants, Mooon Cafe, The Outpost and Lantaw, as well.

But for 16 years I received direct customer feedback about Thirsty and responded to each one of them personally. That’s how important being able to listen to our customers is to me. I’d like to think that we built this company one customer at a time.

When I share this information with others, I’m asked whether I’d get swamped by messages. No. First of all, most are compliments. About 90 percent are positive and heart-warming comments like “very delicious,” “healthy and tasty” and “good service!”

To these, I reply, “Thank you and enjoy your drink. Bunny Pages, President, Thirsty Juices and Shakes - Cebu.”

Some would be complaints on things like customer service, about how they were treated by our crew. Often, they would put the name of our employee in the message because we are among the few companies whose people wear name badges. When I get these complaints, I always reply to apologize and tell the customer I would be checking on the report. If it’s an outlet outside Cebu, I’d forward the complaint to the person in charge and ask him to give me feedback on the action taken.

In fact, we’ve had to let go of some people because of customer complaints sent to my phone. That’s how serious we treat customer feedback.

In the times I got complaints on the quality of our drink, I immediately called, apologized and offered complimentary drinks to the customers. Surprisingly, majority say no to these freebies but undoubtedly, people appreciate being heard and their complaint given importance.

Personally, I consider customer feedback (especially the negative ones) as gifts. And don’t we all love receiving gifts?

Studies have shown that a satisfied customer will tell only three to five people about it. But a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 to 20 people about his bad experience.

Obviously, it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to get a new one.

I look at each customer as if he is the only one I’ve got in the world. In personally dealing with complaints, I was, in my mind, keeping one customer at a time. Many have said “thank you” for my attending to their complaints personally. I’m sure we would have lost many over the years if I didn’t do what I did with their complaints.

I believe that listening to customers helped our company grow our businesses. Equally important is making sure that our own people (our internal customers) let us know what is going on. An important value in our company is “candor,” which means openness. In fact, I always say, in dealing with each other let’s emphasize “truth over harmony.”

This principle guides us in dealing with customer complaints, inside and outside the company.

When friends dine in our restaurants, we ask them for feedback. A lot of people course their reservations through us and every time a family member arranges one, we get back to them after the meal for feedback.

It’s human nature to be defensive, but we have to control ourselves. We should welcome feedback, learn and work with it.

It’s something that I trained myself to do back when I was still selling insurance for Manulife. When a prospect says, “it’s too expensive,” I respond by saying, “so you feel that the price is too high, Mr. prospect? Would you mind telling me why you feel that way?” I’d listen to him talk and quite often, the objection would disappear. But if you go negative or defensive, you can antagonize the other person and lose the sale.

Customers, I think, appreciate being asked, so long as they can feel that it’s okay to talk, to be candid and that someone will listen to them.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 05, 2013.


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