Riddell: The high cost of dissatisfaction
February 10, 2015
At this time of year there is no shortage of business advice columns and the vast majority tends to focus on the needs and benefits of planning. While I wholeheartedly agree with both the needs and benefits of said planning, most of these advisors suggest performing these exercises in late December or early January given that these are typically "slow times" for many businesses.
In Grand County, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Given the county's dependence on snow and tourism, our "slow times" are when quantities of both begin to decline dramatically. As such, we'll deal with an effective and easy planning process in late March or early April. We'll provide a real benefit to "mud season."
So what immediate business opportunity needs to be addressed for our businesses in Grand County? In talking with numerous employees in a wide variety of businesses and organizations two words continually came up in response to the Christmas season — "We survived!" While this was a great indicator of the significant sales volumes many companies experienced, to not recognize the effort and energy put forth by many employees would be a terrible mistake.
If nothing else, sustainable success in Grand County is dependent upon satisfied customers and these front line employees are the keys to this satisfaction. It is not terribly difficult to imagine the personal stress levels of these key individuals when you think about disgruntled customers, grumpy kids, and irate managers, not to mention stock outs and kitchen shortages. And yet everyone knows that one dissatisfied customer generally tells 10 others.
The frustrating part is that while most businesses champion great customer service, few truly understand the cost of bad service. Consider for a moment the easy example of a restaurant. To keep everything simple, let's assume a meal costs $100 and the service and food were great. Chances are that customer is going to come back again and spend an equal or even greater amount. As long as the food and service are good, the repeat business will be there and they may even bring some friends.
But now let's look at the other side. If either the food or the service is not up to par, this customer will not return and will probably relate the experience to 10 others. Now the very real cost is over $1,000! And this is just the result of one bad dinner experience! Just think what having two or more disgruntled waiters, waitresses, or store clerks can cost.
While most business owners/managers try very hard to address this issue through employment screening and training, the fact is these steps alone seldom succeed. It is very difficult for people who feel underappreciated to put on a false front to make total strangers feel appreciated. Yet that is exactly what many owners expect.
So the first key is to make sure that trained employees know that they are appreciated and this can be as simple as a sincere "Thank you for your efforts." The second key is to be constantly vigilant for negative attitude issues and be prepared to take immediate actions to address them. Releasing bad apples to the marketplace is the best decision for the employee, the business, and the customers. Keeping disgruntled employees is just plain stupid and, as we showed above, stupidity can also be very expensive.
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching as an adjunct business school professor, authoring noted business and sports columns, and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
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