“I’d like a tall decaf and a jade citrus mint tea,” I said. The coffee is for me, and the tea is for Blossom.
“I’m sorry, but we’re out of filters. Will an americano be okay instead?”
“Yes, it will,” I answered.
I see the barista is ringing me up at $2.65. That’s the price of an americano instead of the $2.15 I would be paying for a tall coffee.
I say, “I’m okay with the americano, but you should charge me at the tall decaf price. After all, you’re out of the filters.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I’ll get in trouble if I do that,” came the response.
“Really? You’re out of the filters after all.”
She stood firm and repeated, “I’m sorry sir, I will get in trouble if I do that.”
“I understand,” I said. “Is your manager around?”
“I’m the supervisor,” she said proudly. “The manager isn’t due back for an hour.”
I smiled and let her ring me up.
$0.50. It seems like a small amount. And certainly for Starbucks the $0.50 isn’t going to change their fortunes, and it certainly wasn’t going to change my fortunes.
But I have to admit I was pissed. Starbucks has already made ordering decaf an ordeal at many stores. Getting charged more for their mistake was close to a final straw.
You lose customers when you don’t put your customers first.
You have to ask yourself if your willing to lose customers over $0.50.
The day before I was meeting with my good friend and business partner Cathal for coffee over at Peets. I ask for a small decaf coffee.
“We’re out right now,” the barista says to me. But I’m not worried because I know what I’m going to hear next.
“So we’ll have to brew a new batch,” the barista says. “It will take a few minutes. Will that be okay,” he asks.
“That will be fine,” I say. I vow that I will give Peets as much of my business as possible going forward.
It’s so easy. Just put your customers first. It’s such a powerful differentiator.
Here are three other ways you can lose customers:
A. Your product quality is poor.
Years ago, I was meeting with executives from Hitachi. Hitachi was one of the biggest customers we had for my business unit.
We exchanged pleasantries, and then one of the executives started talking. Watanabe, our Japan country manager, translated for me.
I could hear by their tone they were pissed.
“They are saying there’s a problem with the product. And they are saying you should know what the problem is.”
“We’ve never had a problem with that product. Can you tell them that we will figure out what the issue is immediately.” I was trying to make things right.
The executives didn’t wait for Watanabe to translate. They produced photos showing how the product was misbehaving. Then the executive started talking again in Japanese.
“They say you should know there is a problem,” Watanabe says again.
I was a little frustrated. I asked Watanabe, “What am I supposed to say? They may have uncovered something that our testing missed.
“Let them know that we are embarrassed by the lapse in our quality, and we will take full responsibility to fix it.”
Again, the executives didn’t wait for the translation. This time though, they stood up and walked out of the meeting room.
It was the first and only time I’d ever had that happen in my career.. I don’t think we lost Hitachi as a customer because they had no choice but to use our product.
But I also had no doubt that that they weren’t going to give us any business unless they absolutely had to.
B. You don’t test your product.
I was on the other end of this beauty as a customer doing board level design. I was buying a chip that there was only one source for, and the chip wasn’t working right as the temperature on our board increased.
It made no sense what was going on. And the problem had shut our production line down. That’s a killer.
So, I called the company we were buying from, and they told me something chilling, “We don’t temperature test our products.”
“Your data sheet guarantees your product will work from 0 to 70C. What am I supposed to do?”
I eventually spoke with the head of the product line. They agreed to test the product for us.
Can you imagine that? I was relieved that they would test the product for us, but the damage was done. I again vowed I would never buy anything from them again.
C. You don’t ship your product when you committed to.
Anyone that was a customer of my old company, Maxim Integrated Products, knows that Maxim had a history, to say it nicely, of missing deliveries. And when I say we missed deliveries at Maxim, I don’t mean by just a day, we could literally be weeks or months late.
It was our achilles heel as a company. And the crazy thing was we did it by design.
Maxim’s CEO, the late Jack Gifford, was absolutely paranoid about holding excess inventory. He also believed that customers would forgive us for our sins.
Well, he was sort of right. Some of the smaller customers did forgive us for our sins because our products were really good.
However, there were many customers that banned their engineers from using our products. It wasn’t until we started doing large amounts of business with Apple and Samsung that the problem got fixed.
For more on how to keep your customers, read:
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