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A Lesson in Customer Service:


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

Can one foolish statement make or break your business?  Well, this is a story I heard at least 45 years ago from a man, a friend and mentor, who experienced it at least 20 years before that.  It was one snapshot moment that made him a lifelong enemy of one of the world’s most famous jewelry store.

Joe was a young man about to pop “The Question” to his girlfriend, Marlene.  He had been given a smallish diamond ring, a family heirloom, for the occasion.  However, it needed to be refit and resized.  To Joe, it was the biggest, most beautiful, and most important diamond ring in the world. 

Excited and proud, he brought the ring into Tiffany’s in New York City.  Grinning from ear to ear, he approached the first counter in the store, held out the ring, and said he needed to have it resized for his soon-to-be-fiancée.  As Joe told me the story years later, he remembers that the man behind the counter looked first at him and then down at the ring, and then he announced in an icy cold tone, “Small stones to the rear.”

Pop!  There went Joe’s balloon.  Crushed!  Shattered!  Deflated!  I suspect he hesitated, took a step to the rear of the store, and then paused again.  All I do know for sure is that he then turned on his heels, walked out of the world’s most famous jewelry store, and never returned … ever.

Now, I suspect that this snide, pretentious fop was not indicative of Tiffany’s customer service policy.  Still, there he was, at the front of the store, in the role of greeter.  (There’s a Wal-Mart joke in here somewhere, but we’ll skip it.)  All I do know for sure is that it took just one stupid, thoughtless comment to destroy what could have become a positive, profitable, decades-long relationship.

The point:  (1) Teach your people the why and how of quality customer service; and (2) get rid of those employees who do not buy into the program.  Any questions?

That having been said: Work hard.  Make money.  Have fun.  And keep in mind that quality customer service is money in the bank … while bad customer service means big losses in sales and profits.  – JRI

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