How To Lose Customers

A few months ago an Asian food market from a major city opened up a small branch in our nearby town.  Its size is about twice that of a typical mini market.  There have been a few kinks in its daily operations, and I encountered the problem of missing price labels a couple of times.  This should not be a thorny problem.  I found the staff’s attempt to “help” unproductive, and a lesson emerged.

An Asian grocery store

An Asian grocery store

The majority of the items at this store are not expensive.  Boxes of tea and bags of dried fruit were some of their “new” items.  They had to check the computer in the office for pricing.  When no information came forth, they had to call the home office in the major city to find out.  I happened to pick up some of these un-priced items.  Each of the incidents took them more than five minutes, with no clear result.  It wasn’t a big deal for me, I didn’t have to have the items, and so I told them not to worry and left.

However, I have a lesson to offer.  They could have easily said to their customers, “We are sorry about the absence of price tags.  I’ll charge you, let’s say, $3…(or whatever amount that seems reasonable).   If we overcharge you, please keep the receipt and we’ll refund you the next time you stop in.  If we undercharge you, it’s on the house.”  Instead, their need to stick to some “policy” meant that they lost a few business transactions, and discouraged customers from coming back.

The on-the-ground staff see this immediately:  A potential repeat customer, the very basis of their business survival, is turned into someone who won’t bother to come back.  This typifies the problem when on-the-ground staff doesn’t have authority to make instant decisions.  Penny wise, pound foolish.  What is it about control that so inevitably clouds minds of people, especially systems-owners?

Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

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