• May 18, 2011
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Thank You For Your Business

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As you may know, I recently moved to Brooklyn to take advantage of a cavernous apartment with a decent kitchen, at a pretty impressive price. Apartment rentals being what they are in New York, you can guess that I had to give up something to get those qualities. In this case, there were several things.

Yes, fans—I’m about to write another column that’s more personal memoir than razor-sharp CRM snark. I’m not taking this space for granted, and I know my cult of personality does not extend beyond my mirror. Trust me, I’ll make it relevant.

Convenience is one major change. My old neighborhood in Queens met my day-to-day needs. Grocery and pet-food shopping were so close I could practically tie my list to a brick and lob it through the window of the appropriate store from my front door. Some pretty good restaurants were within walking distance, and travel was made easy by proximity to bus, subway, and expressway. Those days are over; just about anything I need now requires a walk that’s almost a workout.

It’s also not as nice a neighborhood, qualitatively speaking. Income is clearly lower here; there are more payday check cashers than there are banks—but at least nail salons abound. Police cars and ambulances are a constant presence—though that can probably be chalked up to population density—and even friendly conversations are shouted across streets.

Yet I’m not writing to complain, to the surprise of family and friends. On the contrary, I’ve noticed a level of courtesy and professionalism from the locals disproportionate to what one might expect. Just about all of the people with whom I have dealt are happy to help, and they act like they want my business.

Barbers who give $12 haircuts also give me their cards so I can ask for them by name and make sure I get a chair without having to wait. A tailor shortened two pairs of pants for me in a few hours instead of a few days, and it’s not like he had no other work at the time. There are other examples, too, but you get the idea: My consumer experience has been better here than most other places I’ve been.

I’ve noticed this a few times outside my town, too. I was shopping for living room furniture— I have to fill the cavern—on Long Island and I had the best salesperson. He was friendly and knowledgeable, present without being intrusive, and made no effort to sell anything in particular. Of course, he wanted me to buy from him, because he’s commission-based. I mentioned where I was from and that there was another outlet for the furniture chain near my home. He said he knows the area because his son works in that store and that I shouldn’t shop there because the selection wasn’t as good. Competitive guy.

I even got follow-up calls from FedEx because of a missing package. The agent who helped me (he told me the package was confirmed as delivered and therefore had likely been lifted from my doorstep) called back a week later to see how I had made out with the seller. FedEx’s responsibility had been discharged; the call was pure courtesy and much appreciated.

This is about more than putting a smiley face on the bill to get a bigger tip; nobody’s taking my dollar for granted, and all of these interactions have left me with some positive and lasting opinions. I remember them and I relate them to others, like a good social customer should. I might not buy my sofa from that great salesperson, but you can bet I’ll refer people to his store and to him in particular.

It’s easier to complain than to compliment, more so with social media. I’m glad to have an opportunity to use the nicer tone of Voice of the Customer. Do yourself a favor: Single out the good experiences, not just the bad ones. You might be surprised by how your outlook changes.

Marshall Lager is managing principal of Third Idea Consulting and is rarely this optimistic about anything involving other people. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Lager to see, or drop him a line at marshall@3rd-idea.com.

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