On a recent mini-vacation to Stuart,Florida, my husband and I experienced both ends of the customer service spectrum, from fantastic to pitiful.  I thought it might be helpful to rehash the pitiful, not for the purpose of venting my frustration, but to let other business owners use these three experiences as a checklist:

No smile and no upsell: Selling ice cream is big business in Florida, as evidenced by the frequency of ice-cream parlors in shopping center after shopping center.  Overhead in this type of business is quite expensive due, in part, to massive freezers running 24/7.  With competition tight and sky-high operational costs, you’d think the ice-cream store owner/manager would grope for every possible consumer dollar.  This definitely was not the case at the parlor we were at on the Saturday night of our getaway.

Families were streaming in and the line was out the door.  Only two employees were working.  Understandably, they both looked haggard and grim.  Not only was this prime time for big money but a golden opportunity to engage the upsell.  “Would you like jimmies on that?  Gummy bears?  Double hot fudge sauce?  Your sugar cone dipped in chocolate?  A third scoop for just a $1 more?”  Not a peep from either employee.  In fact, neither ever cracked a smile or thanked a customer for stopping by.

Lesson: Increase staffing to accommodate peak business hours.  Also, teach employees to recognize and take advantage of prime opportunities to entice customers to buy more. 

Something stunk: Stuart has a quaint downtown area with blocks of lovely boutiques – from art to attire to antiques – and we strolled from store to store. But there was one store we walked out of as quickly as we walked in.  The shop reeked from a foul odor, like mothballs or ammonia.  The employees must have adjusted so well that they didn’t notice it anymore.  But you would think someone working there would wonder why customers didn’t stick around for more than a few seconds.

Lesson: Take measures to assure your place of business has no offensive odors.

Empty table turn-off: In the mood for the best seafood in town (Stuart is a fishing mecca), we asked a local resident to recommend a favorite. Locals always know hidden spots, the rustic and small where the food is absolutely divine.  We went to the place suggested, which was a tiny packed room except for one open table with seating for five.  The hostess told us we had to wait until a small table opened up.  We assumed the empty table was reserved, so a couple of beers and 20 minutes later we were seated.

We ate an un-rushed dinner and kept noticing the empty table was still empty.  The more time that passed, the more peeved we got.  The table for five was never occupied the entire hour and a half we were there!  We might have forgiven them for our half-cooked coconut rice, but it just added to the debacle.  Rest assured, we will never go back nor will we recommend the restaurant to anyone.  What we will do is tell others not to bother.

Lesson: Train employees on proper protocol, including the rule that “live” customers take priority over “pending” ones.   

Over to You

Do you have some other pet peeves or suggestions to add? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.