Earning My Business with Kindness

Across the street from my office is a small teriyaki shop. There’s nothing special about its appearance. The decor is bland, the menu is hand written on a white board and their service is slow at best. I’ve been ordering the “all white meat teriyaki with a little spiciness” for nearly five years and I’ve only seen one woman (the owner) working the cash register. There must be someone else behind the curtain making the food but I’ve never seen any one.

Last week I stopped in for lunch. As I walked up to the counter the owner stepped up to the register and said, “How are you doing Brett? I’ve not seen you in a long time”. I chatted with her for a bit. She asked how Kim and my kids were doing and was genuinely interested in them. She asked if I wanted my regular order, took my money and gave me a number that she’s never once called.

So I’m eating lunch at this small, unassuming joint yet I’m treated like my business really means something. I’m never taken for granted. Every visit I’m asked how things are going. She even remembers the ages of my kids and asks how they are doing. Once my order is ready, she places it in a bag along with a set of chop sticks and some napkins. She then takes the bag and ties a knot with the handles before handing it to me. She’s kind and gentle and I enjoy her company. I always walk out the door with a smile on my face. How many places can you say that about?

I contrast this relationship with the one I had last year with Sprint. I averaged a $200/month bill with Sprint for over five years. Yet when I called to cancel my contract to move to Verizon (only Verizon provides decent coverage at my house) I was put on hold, transferred around the horn, and basically tossed around like a rag doll. One night, after spending nearly an hour on the phone, one customer service rep told me her shift was ending and there wasn’t anyone else in her department to help me. Her suggestion? “Call back tomorrow when we’re open”.

I had met my contract obligations yet was told my service could only be canceled at the end of the billing cycle which meant I’d have to call back ON THAT VERY DAY or I’d have to wait yet another month. Let me get this straight: a company that can meter calls to the very second can’t figure out how to cancel my service on a date in the future? Sprint figures many people will give up if they put up enough obstacles. Their goal is to wear you down like a fish on the line until you’re so drained they can reel you with ease.

Why does a business where I spent eight bucks on teriyaki every few weeks treat me so much better than one where I’ve spent over $10,000?

I wish all businesses appreciated my patronage as much as the little teriyaki joint does.

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