Skip to content

Fix the Cracks in Customer Loyalty Before Your Business Crumbles

Customer Loyalty? Not!

If you provide service like this you are in trouble.

I just returned from a trip to Europe, Italy and Amsterdam to be more specific. In Italy we were instructed to tip waiters in restaurants 10%, which we always seemed to have to pay in cash leaving it on the table. You could hear and see the appreciation in the restaurant staff’s eyes and demeaner…and the service was spectacular everywhere we went. In Amsterdam we found a very different reality. It was the same reality we have experienced in other “don’t tip” countries, like Australia, but not all. New Zealand sticks out as an exception.

So, what did we experience in Holland and Australia? The first experience really blew my mind. We went into a fast food snack restaurant one day that specialized in fries with about 20 different sauces to choose from. Our friends wanted basic catchup with the fries, so that’s what was ordered. As I perused the different choices many sounded much better than plain old ketchup to me, so I asked the gentleman (kid) if I could sample one of the options that intrigued me the most. “No” was the quick response. “No?” was my response. Even with the language barrier it was apparent that my lack of speaking Italian was not the problem here. I asked again if I could just have a small sampling. “No, you will have to buy another bag of fries.” I asked if that was store policy and was finally given a curt “Yes”.

Really? They couldn’t have small paper “sampler” cups (which they had for “extra” sauce)?

Well the ketchup was terrible and left us with a “I would never come back here” experience. But for me the disgust was even greater. Why in the world couldn’t I have tasted something else? I could have convinced everyone else to try something other than the terrible ketchup. There was no way we were going to come back to the place…ever. As we walked out, I spoke loudly about what a disappointing experience we had, hoping to have an impact on others. We walked by that place at least two other times during our stay…no thank you…next!

The food we ate in Amsterdam was overall amazing, truly. We had Indonesian, Indian, Portuguese and Dutch food during our stay. At the Dutch restaurant we were brought the wrong salad. We had ordered a chicken Caesar salad for the table and were brought something else that had no meat. The waitress set it down and I said, “I don’t think that is what we ordered.” “Oh, really?” was the response along with a blank stare. She did not move to take the salad away, so my friend said “Yes, we ordered the chicken Caesar salad”. The waitress looked at him and said “So, you want me to take this away and bring you a chicken Caesar salad?” Still not budging to pick up the errant salad. We all said “Yes, please” in unison and she picked up the salad and walked away. We finally got the chicken Caesar salad just about time we were thinking of desert. Really?

Now I am sure this is the way things are in Holland, or at least Amsterdam, and when in another’s home one does as they do. But I must say a 10% tip, or even 15% or 20%, sure seems to make a huge difference in service levels. That’s sad to me, as service should be ingrained in anyone that provides it to others for their livelihood. It shouldn’t be the fact that I am paying you for your service that dictates my satisfaction, and ultimately my loyalty to your business. If your employees don’t believe that, every day and for every customer every time, get rid of them! If it’s a cultural thing, stand out by making a change and teaching your employees what it takes to make customers loyal.

Remember my definition of a loyal customer is one that not only always comes to you when in the need for your product or service, but also tells everyone else they know that has that need about you passionately. I don’t even remember the names of those the two places I mentioned above, let alone would tell anyone about them. In fact, just the opposite. If I did remember their names I would tell everyone to stay away.

Your challenge this week? What type of customer loyalty gaps do you have in your day-to-day interactions with customers? Find them and fix them now!

Mitchell Bolnick – The Excel Consulting Group