They say that a customer who has a good experience will tell two people while a customer who has a bad experience will tell ten. I want everybody to tell everything.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013


As originally appeared in The Telegram on May 13, 2013

It is said that a customer who has a good experience will tell two people about it, while a customer who has a bad experience will tell ten. I want everybody to tell everything, and over the past four years, I’ve been helping consumers from this province do just that, as @ishopandtell on twitter as well as on my blog.

Having worked in many service-oriented jobs over the past decade and a half, I can say that I have indeed experienced the good and the bad on both sides of the counter. From the call centres to the coffee shops, the restaurants to the retail stores, the hotels, the museum, and the salon, to name a few, I always prided myself on providing service with a smile, and with my customer in mind. And although it has been a while since I worked on the front lines, I still get my back up when I hear about or witness rudeness and indifference in the industry.  It bothers me even more to think about the people who truly do their best for their customers every day, yet hear little praise.  I hope that by spreading the word, not only will people be warned about the outrageously bad, but those who are going above and beyond will also be recognized for their efforts and others inspired to follow suit.

Since broaching the topic of customer service in 2009, I've relayed over five thousand local tweets on the subject, ranging from the good to the bad to the downright ridiculous. From unexpected sincerity in the drive-thru, to a chronically understaffed big box store, to the time an upstairs toilet overflowed onto a table for two, there has been no shortage of commentary to be found about real-life consumer experiences in Newfoundland and Labrador. And while complaints and pet peeves admittedly comprise the majority of anecdotes that I read, I like to think of it this way: before my loyal followers started telling all, shout-outs to customer service super stars were an even smaller minority than they are now. My goal was simply to get people talking, because regardless of whether an experience is positive or negative, the power of word-of-mouth cannot be denied.

Even Nielsen, a global company that collects and measures information on consumer behaviour, found last year that “recommendations from friends” is considered by consumers to be among the most credible forms of advertising.

And it makes sense! Just think about the last time someone told you about the rude service at a particular spot – it didn’t exactly inspire you to go there, did it? Then think about how many times you’ve recommended a business or service to a friend because of just one exceptional experience. The fact is a single impression, good or bad, can be everything.

Case in point:

I've never been to Gracie Joe's before, but I have been asking anyone who mentions lunch whether or not they've been there. All because of a tweeted picture of a monogrammed latte with an accompanying mention of their great service. I don’t have anything to gain in saying so, it just happens to be on my mind. I want to go there for no other reason than: I heard it was awesome. How many times has that happened to you?

Conversely, I haven't eaten a gold-flecked chocolate g√Ęteau in over a year because of the indelicate handling of so-called "study hall" clientele at Coffee Matters last spring. For no other reason than the proverbial bad taste left by what I assume was a temporary lapse in judgment. Yes, they were swift and reasonable in their offering of “humble pie”, but their apology is certainly not the first thing to pop into my mind when I think of that particular establishment. 

But does the blame for a bad service experience lie solely on the service provider? They do call it a customer relationship, after all, and it can take more than forced corporate politeness to make it work.

We’ve all heard “the customer is always right”, but could it be that there is such a thing as a bad customer? I sure think so, but in case you need convincing: consider the guy on his Blackberry who snaps, "double double" and flicks his paypass without otherwise acknowledging the human being behind the counter at the coffee shop. How about that woman who rolls up to the express lane with a week's worth of groceries, oblivious (or not) to the glares of her queue-mates and to the frustration of the cashier who doesn't feel empowered by her employer to direct the offender to a standard checkout line. Who among us hasn't left their 6-garment-maximum on the hangers in the fitting room; admit it, at least once?

Just a little something to talk about.


Besides the ongoing customer service conversation, if you have been trying to figure out the best place to get a hair cut, where to take your boss for lunch, where to find good summer tires, or any other local product or service, you can view all my tweets and retweets, as well as my blog, by googling @ishopandtell – you don’t even need to sign up. If you are already on Twitter, there are many people waiting to hear your stories, so keep me in mind when you are ready to shop and tell.

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