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Lessons learned: The pitfalls of relying on email proposals

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Tom Jennings

 

We’ve all had our share of the “I’ll-be-back” type of customer. One thing we know for sure is that time was wasted during the presentation phase in the showroom. Question is, did the salesperson waste the customer’s time by being uninformed or unprepared? Or, did the customer waste the salesperson’s time by being something less than forthcoming with her wishes and budget constraints? Regardless of who was to blame, both the salesperson and their employer lose.

Today’s floor covering sales- person has a modern-day form of the “I’ll-be-back” response; it’s called an email proposal. Are you one of those sellers who graciously agree to email your prospect the proposal? You know the scenario: Your prospect wants to “think about it” and will call you in a few days. As time passes, however, you can’t seem to get him or her on the phone to discuss the proposal. There the opportunity languishes, lingering in your pending file while you try to figure out the best way to re-establish communication.

Don’t get me wrong: It is perfectly fine to email proposals to established customers who already have a relationship with you. Oftentimes they will accept your call and discuss their thoughts willingly. But with cold prospects, it is a shot in the dark whether you will hear from them again. Emails are the electronic “be back” of today. So although you want to be accommodating with a new prospect, I feel this is a time to push back.

Look at presenting proposals as another opportunity for you to get in front of new prospects and continue building their trust in both you and your offerings. If at all possible, you need to be there in person to review the needs discussed, present your solutions to address these needs, point out the financial details, answer any questions or objections that may arise, etc.

Without this personal conversation, you have no way of knowing if they’ll remember your previous discussions or jump to incorrect conclusions. When your prospect requests that you “just email me your proposal,” push back. Say something to the effect of: “Mrs. Smith, I believe it would be in both of our best interests if you will allow me a few minutes to walk you through the proposal. We’ve discussed a number of different products and their applications. I want to be sure we both fully understand each other’s thoughts so any questions you may have can be resolved before any work commences rather than afterwards. Let’s go ahead and find a time that will work on your calendar to get this accomplished.”

Let me clarify what I mean by “presenting the proposal in person.” You don’t actually have to be on site with the prospect if time or distance is an issue. What’s critical is that you review it together, voice-to-voice. If you aren’t going to be on site, email the proposal 10-15 minutes before the meeting. This will allow enough time for the prospect to review your proposal, but not enough to “shop it around.”

Adopting this strategy will allow you to continue to build trust in a prospect’s eyes. She will see you as being interested in her as a person rather than just a client. At the meeting’s conclusion, you can either close the sale or determine the next appropriate steps to be taken.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Lessons learned: The trick to hiring the right salesperson

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Tom Jennings

 

When visiting with flooring dealers across the country, I often hear the comment, “We may need to add a salesperson to our staff.” When I inquire further as to what the main objective would be to this employee search, the answer is virtually always something to the effect of needing “extra floor coverage.” The emphasis seems to be focused on the short-term goal of having someone available to relate the businesses offerings and attributes. Not exactly a customer-centric approach.

I find it curious that virtually no one states they are seeking staff members who will be better received by, and thus more effective with, their clients. To ultimately be considered successful, all involved—customer, employer and employee—must be generally satisfied with one another other after each transaction. Shouldn’t the goal be to employ the right people rather than settle for just having enough of them? I believe the most important questions you are ever going to consider when interviewing a potential salesperson are: Is this the right person for my clients? What values will he or she add to my clients’ decision-making process? How would I feel if they were selling against my firm working for a competitor? If you wouldn’t find them hard to compete with, why would you want them on your team?

Remember, you’re not interviewing for someone to join your golf foursome or bowling team. It doesn’t matter that you like the potential salesperson you are visiting with if your clients aren’t likely to relate well with them. It doesn’t matter how much you want to hire this person unless your clients will want to trust their purchase decision to them. Ultimately, your current and future clients are the ones who will decide whether you did a good job in hiring a salesperson.

It doesn’t matter that the potential salesperson has the right attributes, skills and the willingness if they aren’t the right fit for your clientele. To that end, don’t obsess over a potential candidate’s existing knowledge of our industry. Sometimes ineffective initial training or dated product knowledge can be more of a detriment than experience. It is much easier to teach someone who likes people what they need to know about flooring than it is to teach someone who already knows flooring the art of making a connection with the consumer.

Your competitors are bombarding both your current and potential clients with offers, relentlessly pursuing their business. Are your potential clients likely to choose to buy from one of these competitors, or are they more likely to choose to buy from the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you? Remember this: Customers are often looking for someone to buy from as much as, or even more than, they are searching for something to buy. Based on what you know about your clients, is this the right salesperson to win that contest?

If you believe the primary value created by the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you is that he or she will provide the headcount you need, then odds are you will have to repeat the process again in the near future when your customer base collectively votes that they are unimpressed by them. Floor coverage may be the reason you initiate the search process, but it should never be the main reason you conclude it.

Bottom line: don’t settle. The only reason you should ever hire anyone is you truly feel they will add value for your clients. No other answer will improve the eventual chances for success, or happiness, for everyone involved.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Lessons learned: Meanings of ‘wow’

May 13/20, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Tom Jennings

 

My experience has taught me that the best way to build customer loyalty is to consistently do the expected things well. Many retail experts are constantly referring to the necessity of having a “wow” factor to differentiate your business from the field. Remember, though, that “wow” can have both a positive and negative meaning. When we say “wow” as we walk into a new and dramatic retail establishment, it will most likely have a positive tone. If this experience is lacking in perfection in any of the customer’s basic service and product expectations, however, then wow may have a totally different connotation upon exit.

As an example, many restaurants today are based around a variety of novel themes. Upon arrival, you may sit in the midst of many large-screen televisions displaying a seemingly endless variety of programming, which can make you feel almost dizzy from all of the motion. If you’re really lucky, you may even get to experience today’s digital music played at such a volume that conversation with your fellow diners becomes strained at best. Is this enjoyable? Depends upon the person being asked. Keep in mind that all entering the establishment had one thing in common: they were hungry or thirsty.

While all of these trendy diversions can be entertaining in their own way, many of these themed establishments seem to have difficulty executing the most basic of food service promises: hot food hot, cold food cold, served in the proper order and in a timely fashion. They seem to think we will be so distracted by the ambiance we won’t notice. Repeat visits are difficult to obtain in any business if you can’t execute the basics. In short, they forget to “keep the main thing the main thing.”

Think of the dining establishments that have built your loyalty and trust. I would wager they have very little that could be considered trendy in either their physical property or menu. I doubt the waiter has a phony opening line or sits down in the booth with you to take your order. I would bet the core staff of service providers is well skilled in knowing both the menu and their regular customers. I am sure the kitchen staff is capable of preparing your favorite dish in a very consistent manner from one visit to the next and your beverage stays refilled. It matters not whether your favorite spot is a diner or a fine steak house. When the basic core services are well executed, you will return and refer others. This consistency becomes their wow factor.

You may ask, what does this have to do with a flooring store? Everything. Customers’ perceptions of good service are not formed in flooring stores. They are formed in the service establishments they visit frequently: the grocery store, dry cleaners, restaurants, auto repair dealerships, etc. The service attitudes and aptitudes they experience in their routine purchases affect the level of expectations they have when making larger ticket investments. Their expectations don’t change just because the bottom line does.

Ask yourself this: After completing a purchase at your business, what might your customers mean when they say wow? Our industry has many basic “hot food hot/cold food cold” expectations we often fail to execute. Dealers who have stayed customer centered and mastered these fundamental tasks will be the ones that have the best odds of gaining the hardest of orders to receive: the second one. This is when success really begins. When you execute the second order well, trust will have been established and subsequent business will become almost automatic as your firm will now have another loyal client.

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Lessons learned: No place for class divisions in your store

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Tom Jennings

 

Readers of a certain age will remember the popular ’70s television show “WKRP in Cincinnati.” One of the recurring gags in this sitcom was the imaginary door and walls around news director Les Nessman’s office. Upon approaching his desk, he would pause and turn the knob to his pretend door before entering his fantasy of a private office. He felt he was too important to be sitting with the commoners. The joke was that he was mystified why no one else was impressed. It was funny when it was fictional.

The sad reality is I see similar behavior and attitudes acted out constantly in everyday life. On a recent trip I found myself boarding four flights at multiple airports. The airline I was booked on uses a boarding system that must have been designed by Les Nessman himself. They had an assortment of aluminum poles, nylon straps and lanes marked on the floor at the entry gate designed purely to “keep the classes” in their proper position.

If you are among the privileged, you are allowed to walk on the designated side of these straps across a specially printed mat to enter the jet way. However, if you are among the lowly majority, you must wait to enter 3 feet over on the opposite side of the barrier without enjoying the pleasure of walking on a special mat. While boarding one flight, I counted seven verbal reminders that some customers were greater than others.

My observation has always been those who got on the plane first were not necessarily impressed based on which side of the lane markings they entered. However, the reactions of those who were told they weren’t worthy ranged from amused to annoyed. What a waste of time and money. I overheard a fellow traveler state, “Southwest would have the plane in the air while these folks are still busy explaining their boarding procedures.” My rant has nothing to do with having a class system. These were hardly invented by the airlines. They existed on the Titanic over a 100 years ago when Wilber and Orville Wright were still flying their plane on the beach. Those who spend more typically expect to receive more in return. The problem I have is in constantly reminding customers with less sizable purchases that they are somehow less important. This couldn’t happen in my store, you say? My bet would be it occurs more than you realize.

Recently, while being shown around a dealer’s store, I was advised of a “huge contract job” they were in the process of installing. The RSA was obviously proud of performing this job, and I admired his enthusiasm.

The problem arose when I overheard staff members tell other customers twice that morning their jobs would have to wait until our “big job” was finished. One customer was told they could “possibly work her in,” while another was actually advised, “we simply don’t have time to do a two-room job anymore this month.” This poor lady actually apologized for “bothering them” with a job this size. Can you believe that? She should have kicked the clod in the shins for being made to feel her business was trivial to any other.

The moral of this story is to train your staff that there is no such thing as a small sale. More importantly, there is never a less important customer. Remove the perception of any class barriers that may currently exist in your store. As customers, most of us will be reasonable in our requests when treated with respect.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Lessons learned: Sometimes you have to fire your customer

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Tom Jennings

 

We’ve all countlessly heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” I believe this to be the case—the majority of the time.

When a customer is unhappy with the goods she has purchased, or the service she has received, shouldn’t you make every effort to ensure her concerns are remedied to her complete satisfaction? My answer would usually be yes.

But isn’t the customer always right no matter what the particulars of the transaction may be? Simply stated, no.

What causes the exceptions? Often it is simply a matter of fair- ness. It’s not just the equitable rights of the entire business to be considered. Many times it is imperative management validate the value of an employee who may be under duress.

Let me first explain I am focusing on a small percentage of the customer base. I have always felt the majority of the people we deal with are basically decent folks who are just concerned with getting their fair value and being treated respectfully.

When this fair-minded customer has a concern that is valid in her mind’s eye, you should endeavor to satisfy her at any cost without delay. Your perception of reality doesn’t matter when dealing with the honest customer. The value of future orders and referrals they can create will always exceed the cost of keeping her happy now. There is never any reason to argue or negotiate with this customer; long term this is a battle you will never win. Remember, whether posting a review or discussing her experiences in person, she will never tell your side of the story—only her own.

The small percentage of the customers I am referring to are the ones who just decide to be impossible to satisfy or decline to play within the rules of decency. Maybe it’s a male customer who harasses a saleswoman. It could be a contractor who is rude and unreasonable in his time-related demands. It could be one who is verbally abusive on the telephone. Maybe it’s the customer who decides to treat your installation staff as subservient. And then there is always the curmudgeon who will find some fault with anything you say or do. If you’ve been serving the buying public for any length of time, you know the type.

When dealing with these customers, it’s usually best to say, “We’re sorry, but maybe we would all be happier if you took your business somewhere else.” You’ll be amazed at how liberating saying these words can be.

As an owner or manager, it is imperative you show your staff the value and respect you have for them—even at the expense of losing a sale. Bending over back- wards to satisfy a customer is admirable. Getting bent over backwards by a customer is not.

Inviting a customer to leave your store is obviously not some- thing you should do often. Perhaps it will occur only once or twice per year. None of us can afford to get in the habit of walking business out the front door.

I would suggest, though, that none of us can afford the cost of walking good employees out the door, either, when they feel unsupported by management. This carries a much greater financial and psychological cost than any profit a sour customer could have provided. Don’t be afraid to fire the occasional bad customer. Your blood pressure will go down and your staff’s morale will go up.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

 

 

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Lessons learned: Building a better staff can pay big dividends

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Tom Jennings

 

Due to both growth and turnover, many retailers are finding the need to add new hires to blend into their staffs. My experience tells me that too many managers treat new staff members as a necessary evil. When a rookie first walks in the door, too often all they see is the amount of time it will take to get them “up to speed.”

Management too often will pass these duties to another more senior salesperson. The conversation usually goes something like: “Just shadow Susie for a few days. She’s been in the business for over 20 years and has seen it all.”

There are several problems with this scenario. First of all, does Susie even welcome the new staff member addition? Many times competitive sales staff can view new faces as somewhat of a threat. Often Susie is a commissioned salesperson who understandably has her own agenda. How long do you think it will take for Susie to begin to influence the new hire with her prejudices? Does Susie have any experience in properly training, or was she largely self-taught when she began? Then, predictably, management will complain when this recent hire begins to flounder. They will question the rookie’s efforts. Perhaps they will place blame on Susie, who was told to do a task she was likely neither properly prepared for nor well suited to do.

Then comes staff turnover. Next comes the manager com- plaining that you can’t find good people to hire today. Then the process is repeated.

Too often, the primary initial emphasis of training is placed upon product knowledge. When responsibility for training new staff members is delegated to a fellow salesperson, or a vendor’s field sales representative, you can almost be certain of this approach. While expertise in this area is required, it is secondary. The most important first task for management is making sure the new employee understands the organization and his or her role within it. He or she must know the firm’s mission and develop a belief in it. It is imperative the new hire be able to connect what he or she does with why it is done.

Remember that we all had a first day on the job—just as we had a first baseball game or piano lesson when we were young. Many of us had a teacher or a coach who believed in us and encouraged us to practice and improve. If you didn’t, you probably soon lost interest and gave up. The same is true when building sales knowledge and ability.

Successful sales trainees must have a mentor who monitors their progress, offers encouragement and celebrates their victories as their careers grow—not a peer who they may ultimately be measured against. All too often, though, novice salespeople are shoved into the deep end of the pool and told to swim. It is simply unfair to expect people to self-motivate and self-train in any industry.

As Mary Kay Cosmetics founder Mary Kay Ash famously stated: “Praise people to success.” She realized she was selling her associates on the concepts of beauty and self-confidence. Once her staff believed in their mission, the cosmetics sales would follow. Selling beautiful flooring is no different. With each new associate come fresh ideas and a new avenue of growth. Having the opportunity to build a better staff is exciting—don’t waste the opportunity.

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Lessons learned: Your first impression

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Tom Jennings

 

This past year I had the opportunity to visit a number of flooring dealers around the country. In nearly every case, I was seeing their showrooms for the first time, much like their own customers do. In doing so, I was reminded that one can learn volumes about how an operation is run three steps inside the front door before ever saying a word to anyone.

The overall best showroom layout I witnessed was completely wide open and welcoming at entry. There was at least a 10- to 12-foot area in all directions that was completely free of displays or merchandise, leaving one with plenty of room to acclimate to the surroundings. The store signage was proper and professional. The lighting was both dramatic and effective. The salesperson who rose to greet me was smartly attired. Not a word had been uttered, yet I felt both comfortable and confident that this store had its act together.

Contrast this with a showroom I had been in just a few weeks earlier. The first thing that greeted me was a pile of discontinued carpet samples offered for sale at $0.50 each. They were impossible to ignore, since one stack had toppled over and I had to walk around them. I noticed not all of the showroom lights were operational. When I was approached, the clerk had on an untucked golf shirt bearing the logo of a tool supplier.

Again, not a word had been spoken yet I felt totally different about the competency of this operation. The pile of samples screamed cheap. It may have been a good deal for a customer who needs a couple, but I think it was very expensive for the merchant. If he sold them all, he might have generated a hundred dollars. Contrast this to the potential cost of having to reduce margins on larger sales to offset the customer’s diminished perceptions. Remember, to a great extent it is you who sets the product’s value, not the customer.

In my experience, these samples would have generated far more value for this store if they were offered free to kindergarten teachers, Sunday school classes, etc. Plus, you can give them away in the warehouse, not in premium space by the entry.

The lights not being completely operational conveyed the impression this dealer either didn’t notice they were off or just hadn’t bothered to have them fixed. Either excuse would worry me. When I trust someone with a portion of my paycheck to perform work at my house, I want someone who pays attention to the details.

The golf shirt showed a complete lack of attention to detail as well. The shirt tail hanging out screamed “sloppy” and the distributor’s logo told me this guy was probably too cheap to buy a proper shirt. I am not talking about logo wear promoting your own business but rather a giveaway from a supplier. You will never walk into a nice automobile showroom to find a salesman wearing a shirt from the parts house down the street.

Many dealers mistakenly feel what they “have to say” will trump whatever the fancy store down the street may have to offer. What they fail to remember is if the customer’s initial impressions aren’t favorable, they may never get their chance to explain.

Most of the impressions that a potential customer may form come as a result of non-verbal communication. It’s usually no one thing that forms an impression but rather a compilation of many seemingly small things.

Tomorrow morning when entering your store for the first time that day, take three steps inside and stop to look around. Ask yourself: Would I be impressed with what I’m seeing?

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Lessons learned: Change your focus from someday to today

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Tom Jennings

Do you ever notice how many people seem to have big plans, yet have very small accomplishments? You know the type. They are the ones who can always tell you everything that’s wrong but are doing very little constructive to make positive changes.

At work, they usually spend more time determining how to get around performing a task than completing the task itself. These folks all seem to live in a different time zone. I refer to it as “Someday.”

We’ve all known residents of Someday. Perhaps we’ve even visited that place ourselves at some point. You will have no problem recognizing Someday inhabitants. They identify themselves constantly by stating something along these lines: Someday I’ll have a nicer car. Someday I’ll start to eat better. Someday I’ll spend more time with the family.

Residents of Someday all seem to have great plans. However, the critical element missing is execution, sometimes known by that dreaded term: hard work. While planning may be fun, and even occasionally necessary, over time I have discovered a funny thing about plans—they only seem to work when I do.

Don’t get me wrong; intentions do not count. Virtually all decent people are filled with good intentions. There is nothing rare about that. However, nobody ever accomplished anything meaningful by “intending” to do so. Results are only accomplished when we put some fuel into our tanks, turn on the engine and begin the journey from someday into “now.”

Only then will we see our results change from the limited success that “talkers” realize to the unlimited success that many “doers” achieve. The reality is we all have to put forth the effort to make a showing at our jobs every day. Since we are going to put in the time anyway, it seems to make sense that we reward ourselves by actually achieving measurable results rather than just talking a good game. Not only is the paycheck more pleasing, but you will find that time actually goes by at a much faster pace when you are able to begin measuring your accomplishments rather than just thinking about all of the things that you want to do someday.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of helpful advice on the issue. In an article that appeared in Forbes magazine, Vanessa Loder, co-founder of Mindfulness Based Achievement, outlined scientifically proven tips for beating procrastination. Among the most effective strategies:

  1. Pick your poison. The key is focus. We often give ourselves too many things to do and become overwhelmed. Start by choosing just one thing you’ve been putting off and make a commitment to complete that task in the next week.
  2. Employ the “five-minute miracle.” This involves asking yourself what action you can take in less than five minutes today that moves this forward even the tiniest bit. Once you’ve identified a small action, set a timer for five minutes and work on the task.
  3. Do a power hour. This consists of putting away all distractions and working in concentrated chunks of time, followed by short periods of rest, in order to harness the optimal performance of your brain and body.
  4. Let it go. Research shows the more you can forgive yourself for past procrastination, the more likely you are to overcome your current procrastination and take action.
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Lessons learned: In selling, credibility means everything

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Tom Jennings

 

One of the greatest attributes any salesperson can possess is the ability to be believable—regardless of what they are selling. But this is even more critical in our field.

Generally speaking, the public does not stay abreast of changes in the flooring industry. The frequency of the purchase cycle is too long to hold most people’s attention.

Simply stated: If the customer doesn’t have complete confidence that she can make a correct decision on her own, she needs assurance that you, the professional RSA, possess the competency to guide her into making such a decision.

Many of you are likely thinking, “That’s what they pay me to do.” The only problem is she will never be able to believe what you say and show unless you believe it as well.

If you don’t believe this to be true, I challenge you to spend one week observing both the body language and verbal comments of every service provider you come in contact with when you are the customer. Take note of your reactions to each presentation made to you.

For example, when you are in a restaurant, make a special effort to ask questions regarding the food and the chef’s capabilities alike. Ask the waitress if the cook is particularly good at making omelets, then observe the response. My guess is for every bright-eyed “he’s the best” reaction you get, you’ll receive a dozen that are something to the effect of “he’s not too bad” or “no one seems to complain.” How inspiring. It makes you want to order two, doesn’t it?

Ask if the cake is fresh. Do you get a “made fresh in our bakery this morning” response, or an “I checked it this morning, it still looks OK” answer. What was the body language saying when you received each response? It is almost impossible to give an enthusiastic response when you are not enthusiastic about the answer that you are giving.

Do you think a waiter’s or waitress’ tip income will be affected by the enthusiasm and believability which they exhibit? Of course it will. Aren’t tips just the waiter’s equivalent to a retail sales commission? Based on that logic, would it not be reasonable to assume the level of believability you exhibit is affecting your income as well?

To succeed at the highest level possible, you must believe in your company. Tell the customer why you choose to be on this team. You must believe in your products—whatever you are selling. Explain to the customer the ways she will benefit by selecting them. Likewise, you must believe in your service. Show the customer how great craftsmanship can turn a box of tile into a beautiful kitchen floor—just as it is that a great cook can turn a bag of flour into beautiful biscuits. Good products alone are never enough.

More importantly, you must believe in yourself. Tell the customer you have the confidence and ability to make the purchasing experience a pleasant one.

When you believe deeply that you, your fellow staff members and your products are a winning combination, your message will be so enthusiastically presented to your customers that they, too, will buy into your passion. When this occurs, sales are sure to follow.

It’s like the old adage, “It’s not usually what we say but rather how we say it.” It’s true. Believe me.

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Lessons learned: Empathy is king when handling complaints

December 24/31, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 15

By Tom Jennings

 

My wife and I were recently having breakfast in a very nice local restaurant. While not the Ritz, it was certainly not an all-you-can-eat chow hall. It had very comfortable décor, properly attired staff, handy location and an interesting menu. Most business owners only wish their operations looked this appealing. The store planners and design staff had obviously done their homework. So far, so good. What came next was not. If only management had spent as much effort properly training the staff as they had designing the décor.

I am certainly not a food critic. How we enjoyed our meal is likely of very little interest. What we should all take note of is how the staff reacted to adversity.

My wife ordered a waffle purely due to the well-written descriptive copy on the menu, stating, “This sounds delicious.” What she received was so cold it would not even melt the butter. Disappointing for sure, but no big deal. We have all had it happen. What happened next was a critical point in “saving the customer’s confidence” handled poorly.

When I observed she was not eating much, she commented the staff was busy, and she did not want to bother them nor wait for an appropriately warm replacement. (Remember: it is estimated only one in six customers will advise you of minor disappointments. The problem is they will tell everyone but you.)

Then the waiter asked her if she was hungry since she had not eaten much. Rule No. 1: Never attempt to shift blame or responsibility to the customer. He should have asked what he could do to make her breakfast more enjoyable. Instead, he acted like it was her fault.

I then commented that there was nothing wrong with her appetite—the food was cold. She was just being nice. His response was classic. He stated that should not have happened since “we get these things frozen. You’d think anyone should be able to warm one up.” If this were bowling, he would have gotten a strike with this comment. He managed to knock everyone down with one roll of his tongue.

He threw the kitchen staff under the bus as being incompetent. He undermined the great menu presentation by revealing they basically served overgrown toaster waffles. By doing so, he cast suspicion on all other menu items as well. He then acted like an authority when he proclaimed he could remove the charge from our ticket. All this accomplished was reducing the revenue for all involved. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

What he failed to do was show the least bit of empathy. Never once did he say he was sorry or disappointed. He was too busy pointing fingers and trying to solve a problem with a discount. I am sure he told his boss that “he took care of it.” Remember, customers are not really interested in how things happen. They just want to know what you are going to do about it.

The restaurant business is not easy, but neither is the flooring business. Always remember it is most important to manage the emotions of the customer first—then worry about the product. My wife did not want a free breakfast. She wanted to pay for a hot and delicious one. When things do not go as planned in your business, make sure you take great care of the customer first. They will be quick to forget a “cold waffle,” but a “cold attitude” will linger much longer.