How Committed Are You to Customer Service? Meet Matt Fusco of The Rugged Mill
Updated June 5, 2011
During our June 2011 trip through New England, Sue and I stopped at The Rugged Mill to say hi to Matt Fusco. He was still his passionate self about serving customers. Be sure to stop in to say hi if you’re passing near North Conway, New Hampshire, or check out his website.
Every fall and spring, Sue and I make a trip to New Brunswick to visit her folks and friends. We’ve been doing this pilgrimage since moving away from the province in 2000. Our preferred route to New Brunswick is through New York States, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We know the roads like the back of our hands, marveling at the incredible beauty of the Adirondacks and the Green and White Mountains.
One of our regular stops is North Conway, New Hampshire, home of a long list of factory outlets. I’m one of those in-and-out shopper guys, a laser focus on very quickly finding what I want and then getting the heck out. One of the few stores I visit in North Conway has been the Woolrich factory outlet store. However, when we arrived in North Conway during our stopover in mid September I discovered it had closed. Fortunately, a friendly sales clerk at the adjacent Eddy Bauer store told me to check out a store called The Rugged Mill in the heart of the town. Apparently, the former manager of the outlet store had opened a retail store which was oriented towards WoolRich products. So off we went to downtown North Conway.
The Rugged Mill is a wonderful retail store. Opened only three months when we visited in September, we were greeted by Matt Fusco, the owner and former manager of the Woolrich factory outlet at Settlers’ Green just down the road. In response to my typical inquisitive questioning, Matt explained that Woolrich was moving away from factory outlets, focusing on online retailing and through independents like himself. After I explained what I was seeking he explained his product line, some new arrivals, the sales promotions being offered that week and asked how could he help me.
After the sale of some merchandise, he thanked me sincerely and explained how his online service worked. He also asked where we were from and how often we pass through North Conway. Sue and I then asked his advice on where he would recommend we eat supper. His advice proved to be top notch.
My point in sharing this anecdote is to emphasize a few key points.
First, retail is a brutal business, with a high attrition rate during the best of times. I commend Matt’s courage for opening a clothing retail store during the tail end of the worst recession since the late thirties. Despite North Conway being a tourist magnet it too has been hit by the recession, with a number of retail factory outlets and other establishments either closing or suffering weakened sales.
Second, customer service is about a HUMAN experience, in which EACH transaction is seen as being valued and treasured. Matt obviously greatly valued my visit to his store. He’s hungry to succeed and to build a viable business. In fact, his first question when we entered was how did we hear about his new store. Contrast this to my experience at a Mobil gas station one hour earlier when I stopped in to buy some beer. When I approached the cash register, the young hulking attendant blurted out “Can I see some ID.” I’m 55, no spring chicken. I was surprised, so he added “We ID everyone.” I complied since I’ve served alcohol and have had to ID patrons; I also try to be empathetic to those who serve the public.
I laughed when I returned to the car, telling Sue about my experience. But there’s a bigger point here: Big deal about providing ID when you’re 34 years past the legal drinking age in America. It’s funny (if you have a sense of humor). The point is HOW you ask the question, in this case, ID. I’ve had to ask my peers for ID at the Cisco Ottawa Blues Fest, which adopted an “Ask everyone” policy two years ago. Yes, some guys got pissed off at me (the women loved me), but I explained why and kept a sense of humor. That always depleted their hostility.
Third, NEVER take your customers or clients for granted. The day you do is the day you begin to roll up the sidewalk to your establishment. You’re toast!
I really hope that Matt Fusco makes a successful go with his new business. When Sue and I pass through North Conway next summer I want to see his store name clearly visible along the busy downtown and the relaxed and smiling Matt greeting customers.
If you doubt what I’m saying about Matt Fusco, drop by his store in North Conway to check out his products and service. Or phone him at 603-356-0490. Or visit his website TheRuggedMill.
Be sure to share your own customer service experiences.
Do what you do so well that they will
want to see it again and bring their friends.
Take a moment to meet Jim.