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Customer Focus can Lead to Loyalty

In recent weeks, I've had several encounters with various businesses where each time I was the buyer - the customer. My point isn't to blast anyone, rather to demonstrate where the road to loyalty begins or where it never starts. That's a choice every business makes. Here are the highlights of my experiences.

In June, we purchased a pre-owned vehicle from our local Toyota dealer - Toyota of Greenville. Since it had been more than 11 years since my last automobile purchase, I wasn't looking forward to the experience. To my surprise, it was actually a delight thanks to Tom Jones, our sales representative. He applied no pressure, was honest, straight-forward and made the experience one that I said I would share with others - so I am.

At that same time, I visited our local Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver's license. Again, cringing at the thought of wasting my entire afternoon waiting in line, I headed to the DMV. Another delightful experience - I was in and out in 20 minutes. No hassles, no nothing - just the service that I've ALWAYS wanted from the DMV.

Then, a couple of weeks later, we decided to pick up lunch one Saturday at Wendy's. I confidently approached the counter, placed my order and then it all broke loose. All I wanted was three burgers - each fixed slightly different from the other. I even had it written down. No matter how many times the MANAGER started over with my order, he never gave me the confidence it was right. Well, that proved to be the case when I arrived home and NONE of the burgers were right. That was perhaps the worst fast-food experience I've had. Ironically, check out the statement on the Wendy's home page at the bottom: "At Wendy's®, we're unrivaled in our passion for giving people what they want — and uncompromising in giving people what they deserve.." I received neither. Guess what fast-food restaurant is now off my list?

Finally, I bought another car recently. This time it was a new one. After all the negotiating and time spent in the dealership, it was time to take delivery of my new car. While waiting on the sales rep to finish up some paperwork, I noticed he hadn't reversed my tires like I had asked and as we had agreed. In an effort to make it right, we both entered the sales manager's office to explain the situation. A rather cool greeting was extended to me by this sales manager who proceeded to cry about only making $65 profit on the car AND THEN barking about losing $10 if they fulfilled their promise to me because of a service fee they would incur. I couldn't believe my ears. Was this MY money they were worrying about or THEIRS? What a joke. Another ironic twist to a story - the same day this occurred, our local newspaper, The Greenville News, had published my marketing article that discussed how to build customer loyalty by treating the customer properly and with respect.

And that's really the entire point of these stories. In two situations, the companies and organizations were well trained and kept their eye on the ball - the customer. In the other two, they didn't seem to care as their interests were more important than the person with the check book.

Granted, we all have bad days, but a single bad day that results in losing a customer can have a negative snowball effect on your business. Stay poised and treat those well who have entrusted you with their wallets. Doing so means you both will win.

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