What's a Reputation Worth?

Do you ever get the feeling that customer service is as much a part of the past as drive-in movies and typewriters? How many people have horror stories about the way they've been treated by so-called "service providers" who haven't a clue about how to deal with customers. A woman comes home from work, parks in her garage and realizes she doesn't have the key to the door from the garage to the house. She calls a local locksmith and they tell her someone will be there shortly.

Two hours later, a teenaged man shows up and tells her he's sorry to be so late, but he got stopped by a police officer on the way and was issued a traffic citation. He then looks at the lock, takes out a plastic credit card, and slides it between the door and the frame, releasing the retractable bolt.

The woman, knowing the cost of the service call is $55, plus $75 per hour for any labor needed, asks the young man for the bill. He calmly hands her an invoice for $130, plus tax. Now, his "labor" consisted of a one-second sweep with a plastic card; however, he charged her for an hour of work. The question is; how can a company say a service charge is $55, when even one second on the scene adds another $75? Doesn't that mean that the actual charge for a service call is $130 and any labor over an hour means an additional $75 per? Couldn't the man have simply told the woman that the lock could easily be opened with a plastic card? Might it not have been good customer relations to help the woman and only charge her for the service call? Furthermore, how about the 2 hours she had to wait? Doesn't that count for anything? Or did the man expect her to pay for the ticket he got on his way over?

This is a scenario that happens all too often because some people have no understanding of customer relations. The woman who felt  ripped off in this situation will tell her story to countless others, warning them to never call that locksmith if they need help. On the other hand, if the woman had been treated fairly, she would undoubtedly recommend the company to her friends and neighbors. That's a part of the business that this locksmith company doesn't understand.

Reputation is the difference between failure and success. Entrepreneurs spend a lot of money on advertising because they know it's an investment that pays substantial dividends. In addition, smart businesspeople know that the more satisfied clients they have, the more likely they are to benefit from the "mouth to mouth" advertising that comes from those happy campers.

If you're like me, you recommend businesses all the time. Whether it's the restaurants that provide the best food and atmosphere, or the local bank that has the most pleasant employees who make you feel special every time you step foot in the place; we remember people and places that make us feel good. That feeling is the single most important ingredient in getting repeat business.

Is it really so difficult to be nice to people? Those who operate successful enterprises know the value of hiring pleasant, tactful and honest employees because they are the best advertisement for the company. If you own a business and are unaware of the effect your staff has on the clients, you probably have poor management experience and your enterprise probably won't last long.

There's an excellent reason why major corporations spend millions on a public relations division; they recognize the immense value of the company image. The same goes for the political arena. What senator, congressman or mayor would want someone on staff with a personality that makes enemies? On the contrary, you will find some of the most amiable, helpful and accommodating people working for elected officials. Those warm smiling faces with outstretched hands and affectionate hugs are reflections of the public servants they represent. The congenial vibes created by those aides can translate into votes at the next election.

People buy products and services, and people vote. The decisions they make on the aforementioned have more to do with the way they've been treated than any other type of encounter. That locksmith came away with $75 more cash, but very likely lost a reputation that was priceless.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.
Do you ever get the feeling that customer service is as much a part of the past as drive-in movies and typewriters? How many people have horror stories about the way they've been treated by so-called "service providers" who haven't a clue about how to deal with customers. A woman comes home from work, parks in her garage and realizes she doesn't have the key to the door from the garage to the house. She calls a local locksmith and they tell her someone will be there shortly.

Two hours later, a teenaged man shows up and tells her he's sorry to be so late, but he got stopped by a police officer on the way and was issued a traffic citation. He then looks at the lock, takes out a plastic credit card, and slides it between the door and the frame, releasing the retractable bolt.

The woman, knowing the cost of the service call is $55, plus $75 per hour for any labor needed, asks the young man for the bill. He calmly hands her an invoice for $130, plus tax. Now, his "labor" consisted of a one-second sweep with a plastic card; however, he charged her for an hour of work. The question is; how can a company say a service charge is $55, when even one second on the scene adds another $75? Doesn't that mean that the actual charge for a service call is $130 and any labor over an hour means an additional $75 per? Couldn't the man have simply told the woman that the lock could easily be opened with a plastic card? Might it not have been good customer relations to help the woman and only charge her for the service call? Furthermore, how about the 2 hours she had to wait? Doesn't that count for anything? Or did the man expect her to pay for the ticket he got on his way over?

This is a scenario that happens all too often because some people have no understanding of customer relations. The woman who felt  ripped off in this situation will tell her story to countless others, warning them to never call that locksmith if they need help. On the other hand, if the woman had been treated fairly, she would undoubtedly recommend the company to her friends and neighbors. That's a part of the business that this locksmith company doesn't understand.

Reputation is the difference between failure and success. Entrepreneurs spend a lot of money on advertising because they know it's an investment that pays substantial dividends. In addition, smart businesspeople know that the more satisfied clients they have, the more likely they are to benefit from the "mouth to mouth" advertising that comes from those happy campers.

If you're like me, you recommend businesses all the time. Whether it's the restaurants that provide the best food and atmosphere, or the local bank that has the most pleasant employees who make you feel special every time you step foot in the place; we remember people and places that make us feel good. That feeling is the single most important ingredient in getting repeat business.

Is it really so difficult to be nice to people? Those who operate successful enterprises know the value of hiring pleasant, tactful and honest employees because they are the best advertisement for the company. If you own a business and are unaware of the effect your staff has on the clients, you probably have poor management experience and your enterprise probably won't last long.

There's an excellent reason why major corporations spend millions on a public relations division; they recognize the immense value of the company image. The same goes for the political arena. What senator, congressman or mayor would want someone on staff with a personality that makes enemies? On the contrary, you will find some of the most amiable, helpful and accommodating people working for elected officials. Those warm smiling faces with outstretched hands and affectionate hugs are reflections of the public servants they represent. The congenial vibes created by those aides can translate into votes at the next election.

People buy products and services, and people vote. The decisions they make on the aforementioned have more to do with the way they've been treated than any other type of encounter. That locksmith came away with $75 more cash, but very likely lost a reputation that was priceless.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.