I’ve written many blogs and told many stories and tweeted many strongly-worded messages about how important customer service is to me. I’m a fan.
If a company wrongs me, I put them on blast. It’s simple. If a company is great for me, I let them know. Even simpler (and more fun).
And since I make a pretty strong effort to not be a hypocrite, I found myself in a pretty sticky predicament recently as I was making a particular decision for my upcoming wedding.
Making wedding plans is a blast if you’re a fan of trying to decide between seven hundred things at once. Otherwise, not so much. It’s the most special day of your life. And there’s a market for it. Every aspect of your wedding has a business built around it that is cutting into another business that is trying to do it better. Cakes, dresses, shoes, DJ’s, photographers, videographers, etc. Each scrambles for your attention and ultimately your business.
They have wedding fairs to show off different vendors and products. They have Pinterest to give your fiancee a sugar high while perusing countless DIY wedding projects. And there’s a lot of money involved – hence the wedding racket… err business.
If you’ve gone through this, then you know. And if you haven’t yet, you will. Remember when you thought you could just marry the one you love and call it a day? Don’t be silly.
So, at this point I’ve visited several wedding ceremony and reception locations and had to make a difficult choice. I’ve tasted different cakes and had to make a difficult choice. I’ve helped design websites and save the dates and invites and whatnot. And each decision and vendor choice was made by carefully scrutinizing the options.
And that brings us to my tuxedo shopping experience.
We knew our color scheme. We knew we wanted it to look good. And we knew we didn’t want to kill my groomsmen’s bank accounts. So we started shopping.
When the dust cleared, two places stood out to us. I won’t use actual names, but let’s just call one Big National Chain and the other Mom & Pop Store. You see where this is going yet?
Here’s how I almost became a hypocrite:
We liked Mom & Pop Store. A lot. They were friendly. They had what we wanted and seemed very eager to help in any way they could to make our big day as special as possible. They seemed to know what we wanted and were willing to work hard to make sure it was what we got. Overall, they weren’t just renting us tuxedos, they were selling us peace of mind that the guys and I would look great on my big day.
Big National Chain was ready to rent us tuxedos with a “just let us know which ones you want and we’ll undercut the competitors” attitude. And to ensure they get the business, they’d throw in a $500 gift card for me.
Keep in mind, they were not helpful. They didn’t listen to my fiancee as she repeatedly explained that she didn’t like the particular ones they kept pointing us toward. At one point, they even stopped helping us and watched as we tried to move mannequins around ourselves in a futile attempt to see how one vest would go with a jacket. But they figured they had the trump card.
Big National Chain found out how much Mom & Pop Store was charging and matched it. Even undercut it by $5 a person. And then there was the gift card. I could essentially buy any suit I wanted if we went with them. Very seductive. I needed to think.
I should also throw a disclaimer that I may have just picked this place on a bad day at a bad location. But the missus and I didn’t feel like they cared at all about our situation. I think people do something so much that they forget that, for others, it may be their first time going through the motions. And when you’re in the wedding business, it’s safe to say that each client is going to want to see you sharing in the excitement of their big day.
So here I was: I have a small business that is doing everything they can to develop a client base that feels respected and taken care of. On the other hand, I have a national chain who is making no attempt to win my business through anything other than promotions and likely wouldn’t have remembered me if I came back the next day.
And I wanted that new suit.
But after wresting with it and speaking with friends, I realized that the obvious choice is the Mom & Pop Store. This was my wedding day – why go with someone who doesn’t care when there was someone else eager to help? There’s something very comforting about choosing a company that has your best interests in mind, and since they’re so hard to find, how could I walk away from this opportunity?
When I called Mom & Pop Store and explained the situation and why I chose them, the owner told me it was his honor to work with me. And that I better start hitting the gym to trim down for the fitting. Ergh.
Situations like this remind me that Customer Service is the trump card. Whether you’re shopping for tuxedos, a car or (cough) a hosting provider – find a product that fits your needs and then find the expert customer care that will seal the deal.