I dropped everything.
So, I blew up my phone and I freaked out. I own a couple of businesses. I'm heavily involved in community organizations. I freelance. I'm on my phone pretty much all of the time.
I drove to one Sprint store - closed for the day (Sunday). I drove to the other Sprint store and got there at 5:01. They close at 5:00. I didn't really know where else to go, and it's not like I could use my phone to call anyone.
The store was locked, but there were still employees and customers inside. I waved a little bit to see if I could motion that I just had a question. The employees looked at me and then ignored me. One of them was counting money, so I figured I'd wait until she was done and try again. She finished - I tried again. She looked at me, and then ignored me again.
Completely frustrated, I went back to my car, figuring I would just drive to the next Sprint location and see if they were open. And then I decided I would try one last time. I went back to the door of the store and knocked and tried to mouth that I just had a quick question and showed them my phone.
The girl who had ignored me twice looked at her co-worker, rolled her eyes, looked at me like I was a crazy person and came to the door.
Turns out, glass is transparent and I CAN TOTALLY SEE YOU ROLLING YOUR EYES AT ME,LADY.
"Hi - I'm sorry, I know you're closed, I just have a question - is there anywhere I can buy this phone tonight?"
"I don't know. Maybe you should try Best Buy." And she closed the door on me.
Here's the thing. I've been with Sprint for over 15 years. My bill averages $100 a month. I've probably spent $100 a year in accessories/upgrades/etc. So over the course of 15 years, I've given Sprint nearly $20,000.
That's a new car, you guys. That's a years worth of mortgage payments.
Basically - it's a lot of money
That's over 4,000 pints of Ben &Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream.
Basically - it's a lot of money
Maybe it was the clothes I was wearing. Maybe she was tired. Maybe, Sprint employees are prohibited from being helpful to customers once the clock strikes 5:00. I don't know what the answer is. What I do know is, when I think about where I want to spend my extremely limited income, I know I don't want to spend it with people who roll their eyes at me and slam doors in my face.
I ended up going to Best Buy, where they were incredibly helpful, personable, funny and provided an overall great experience. I spent far more money than I would have liked, but I have a working phone, and I'll probably never step foot in a Sprint store again.
A lot of people will say - "well, that's big business. You need what they have, and they're too big to fail." I don't necessarily believe that's true, but I know a lot of big businesses don't appear to care that much for customer service. What's really surprising is when small businesses do the same thing.
Approximately 50% of small businesses fail within 5 years, due to a variety of reasons. Although customer service isn't generally cited as one of these reasons, losing customers because of bad experiences is certainly a contributing factor. And the thing is - a lot of customers won't even tell you they had a bad experience. They'll just stop coming back.
I've managed small businesses for most of my life, and have owned my own for several years. My customer service isn't always spot on, but I think it's one of the most important aspects of running a business, and something that should always be evaluated and improved upon. When I think about what I want as a customer, and what I hope I provide to my own customers, I think about the following:
1.) The customers that don't spend a lot matter just as much as the customers who do. A bar I used to manage had a customer who came in three times a week and just drank soda. Three of them each night, three times a week, at $3 each. He tipped about 50 cents per drink. The bartenders hated him. On the other hand, they loved the guy who came in a couple of times a year and spent $150 and tipped them $20. The "big spender" spent $390 a year in that bar. The "jerk" who only drinks soda spent $546. Every customer matters, and some matter more than you think they do.
2.) Bad online reviews are a gift. If you're screwing up, most people won't tell you, but they'll tell everyone else. Be grateful for the people who are giving you the opportunity to do better. Respond to their concerns. Promise to give them a better experience the next time they come in, and then live up to that promise. Even though this reviewer says he won't be able to come back, it mattered that the company tried to make it right, and he shared that experience publicly.