One of the phone calls I dreaded most while running Toy House would happen occasionally on my lunch hour. I’d look down at my cellphone and see “Toy House” was calling. It rarely was a “problem.” My staff knew exactly how I liked problems to be handled. The phone call I dreaded was most often this simple question …
“When will you be back? We have a customer waiting to get her car seat checked.”
I hated that call. Not because it meant cutting my lunch short. If you’ve seen me, you know I could stand to skip a few meals now and then. I hated that call because it meant a customer was not getting served properly. If you offer a service, you need to offer it every single moment you are open.
Although we started checking car seats back in the late 1990’s, we didn’t publicize it as a service until 2005 because I didn’t have enough people trained to offer that service full time until 2005. With the exception of trade show weeks and vacations, I made sure someone was scheduled to offer this service almost every single moment we were open.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when I stopped in a Meijer store early one morning. I was in this store that is open 24/7 at 7:50am to do a return. They have a Customer Service desk where you go for returns. I went there and spoke to the nice lady behind the counter. She informed me they weren’t open yet. Not open? The store is open 24/7!
“Could I take my items to a cash register lane to do the return?”
“No, you’ll have to wait until 8am.”
The store may be open 24/7 but the Customer Service desk is only open 8am to 10pm. Apparently they only offer service for 14 of those 24 hours.
It reminded me of the time I once went to a Sam’s Club. They had the item I wanted in stock, but it was “up in the steel.” Unfortunately there were no forklift drivers to get it down for me. I would have to wait until morning. Really???
I point these out because these are the kinds of stories people like to share with their friends. These are the negative stories that get passed along from person to person, growing in scope and stature with each re-telling.
That’s why I hated to get that phone call. That was one more customer who could potentially have a negative story to share about my store.
If you advertise you offer a service, you have to offer that service the entire time you are open. Period. Otherwise you open yourself up to that other kind of advertising that is extremely difficult to overcome.
PS If you have a service that is impossible to offer the entire time you are open, make sure the restrictions are known well in advance. Let people know clearly if it is by appointment only, or limited hours, or only on certain days. Control the stories people tell about your business and you’ll control the growth of your business. Oh, and always keep your cellphone on when you go to lunch.