On the far edge of a bustling new city center, a neighborhood boutique sells intimate apparel to a dwindling, but dedicated customer base. As part of its efforts to keep customers aware of their signature advantages over the chain stores, the shop works closely with each client to ensure a custom fit, a service for which they charge a nominal fee. One day, two new potential customers arrive: young friends, one of whom is bringing the other to the shop to select undergarments for her wedding day. The visit ends in disaster, the subject of the following letter.
As a fellow small business owner, what would you advise the shopkeeper to do?
I am writing to express my distress about the encounter my friend and I experienced in your shop on Saturday, July 9. I am also writing to suggest a remedy.
My friend and I were first-time visitors to your store, but eager to shop there. I had seen your shop a number of times on my way to the city center, and a co-worker and neighboring resident had expressed her enthusiasm for it. In any case, my friend is soon to be married in September and, because she wears an usually large size, I thought this would be the perfect place to take her for a wedding gift.
As first-time visitors, we were very taken with the intimate-wear on the racks. I was pleased when a shopwoman approached us regarding a fitting, and my friend readily agreed. Not surprisingly, my friend had been too consumed with checking out your impressive selection rather than reading any wall signs. So was I. That means she received an unpleasant shock when she was told that the fitting would cost her $5.
Although my friend apologized for her ignorance and the shopwoman agreed to waive the fee, the situation still escalated unpleasantly. Indeed, both the shopwoman and you, the owner, insisted that a couple of signs stated the $5 policy. What was troubling, however, was your insistence that we should have noticed the signs, which we inferred as either (1) “any dummy could have seen it” or (2) “you deliberately chose to ignore it so you could misuse our services.” Not surprisingly, we left without shopping further or expressing an interest to return for a later purchase.
Because I have worked in customer service positions, I am not so foolish as to assert “the customer is always right.” But I do believe that customers should be given the benefit of the doubt and that deferring to misunderstanding more often than not serves to shore up good feeling and repeat business. Why did we not hear “we’re sorry for the misunderstanding, please come back again” from you or your staff?
Well, there is still opportunity for that. I would like to support a boutique shop such as yours and would like to recommend your business to my similarly-busty peers. I am enclosing the address of my friend below and I am requesting that you send a note of apology to her for yesterday’s incident and an invitation to her to return. I am certain that she would receive it well, and that she would signal to me a willingness to shop at your store again. Her name is Name Withheld and her address is 3200 Nameless Avenue, Apt. 301, Anycity, VA 12345.
Thank you for your prompt action. I look forward to hearing from you.
Readers, your advice for the shopkeeper?
Flickr photo credit: James@mannequindisplay.com