Can you afford to lose customers?

Not too long ago, my best friend visited from Chicago and we made plans to go shopping, get our makeup done at my favorite boutique, and have lunch.  This has become a tradition for us, and we have tried to do these things together every time she has visited over the past several years.  We choose this particular makeup boutique because we obviously love their products, but also because they will do our makeup for “free!” My husband wouldn’t actually consider it free, considering I end up buying many of the items they use, but they don’t actually charge for the service.  The first time we went in was before my wedding, so I could learn some new techniques and do my own makeup on the big day.  We had such a great time; the girl who did our makeup was so nice, and we truly enjoyed speaking with her and getting to know her; not to mention, she did a great job!  The next time we went in was before my friend’s wedding, and once again, had a very nice makeup artist who did a wonderful job.  We had such a great time and planned to do it again the next time she was in town.  When she planned her New Year’s Eve trip, we set aside a day for our traditional outing and were looking forward to our new looks and a fun lunch.

When we arrived at the mall, we went straight to the boutique to get started!  Only this time, they said the rules had changed.  They were no longer doing more than one makeover at a time, and we would have to make reservations for about an hour and half from the time we arrived.  We were already getting quite hungry, but we decided we could kill an hour and a half walking around and figured if there was no one else there, they wouldn’t mind making up our faces at the same time.  When we returned, I volunteered to go first and the employee began asking questions about what I was looking for.  I told her I had used these products for years, had a good idea of what was there and was just looking for some new, younger colors.  But apparently she wasn’t listening, because she began with a sales pitch about their anti-aging cleansers and moisturizers.  I listened patiently, then again explained that I was only after new makeup colors.  Rather than pick colors specifically for me (like the girls have done in the past), she simply picked out a pre-made kit that they were clearly promoting at the time, and used only those colors.  I asked her to write them down so I could re-purchase in the future and she just wrote the name of the kit.  Meanwhile, we were getting quite “hangry” and asked if, since there were girls standing around talking about their New Year’s plans, maybe my friend could get her makeup started.  The girl told her that her appointment didn’t start for 15 minutes so she would have to wait until then.  She decided that she did not want to get her makeup done at all, and let the girls know exactly why.  They finished up, we purchased nothing, then headed to lunch.  What a letdown!  Not only was this our fun tradition, but it’s also the store I frequent when I’m purchasing new makeup.  While I’ve had a number of great experiences there, that one bad experience left a sour taste in my mouth and I will not be returning.

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So what does this mean for you?  Nothing, unless you want customers to return to your business!  As everyone knows, people are much more likely to leave a bad review than a good one.  And they are more likely to tell their friends about their bad experiences than their good ones.  So remember, even if a customer has been loyal for years, one experience can change that and send them in another direction.  It’s important to work with your customers to build partnerships, and develop give and take relationships. When I wrote to the makeup boutique’s management to explain the situation, I never got a response!  Maybe if they had written back and apologized I would have considered returning.  But apparently they are doing well enough to lose a few customers.  Can your company afford to do the same?  Maybe my complaint sounded silly and trivial to them, and they didn’t think it worthy of a response.  But your customers are how your business survives, and while the customer isn’t necessarily always right, you do depend on them and therefore should make sure they know they are worthy of your time.

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5 thoughts on “Can you afford to lose customers?”

  1. As you say so clearly, there are a lot of other stores out there and I am a flexible woman, so even if I miss the product at one place, I can adapt to a new set of products if it means I don’t have to return to a retailer who has forgotten the meaning of customer service. I applaud you for writing a note to the company, and condemn their lack of response. I recently wrote to Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. The topic was an issue I had with a new customer program. Howard didn’t write back to me directly, but another manager did and he addressed the issues I raised specifically, indicating that he had read my email. Guess what? I still go to Starbucks!

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