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Raw Hamburger and Soupy Greek Yogurt: Moments of Truth

August 26, 2012

I don’t know about you but I’m not into raw hamburger. And when it comes to yogurt, I expect the Greek variety to be firm in consistency, not something you can easily suck up through a straw.

I was running late one day doing errands so thought I’d stop at The Butchery, a renowned butchery shop 10 minutes from my home. On one side of the store is a burger counter where you can grab a quick bite.

The store was very quiet at that time of day (it’s usually very busy). I approached the counter and waited a couple of minutes before one of the two female employees finally noticed me. They had been chatting, not paying attention to the order counter. When I placed my order I asked if my burger could be well done. With hamburger I don’t do pink (but no problem with a medium steak).

The employee I was dealing with had a sour attitude. She snapped back at me, “We cook our burgers with red in the middle.” I replied that Health Canada advises against this practice and could I please have it thoroughly cooked.

She glared at me, and for a moment we had a stare down until she turned away and put in my order.

A few minutes later she called my name and said, “Here’s your well-done burger.” Sure enough, it was well done but burnt to boot.

When I got home I went on The Butchery’s website and emailed them through their contact form. I wasn’t going to let this incident go without providing some feedback.

Within three hours of emailing The Butchery I had a message from the owner who left me his personal wireless number. Mark Cantor is a dynamic guy. He’s probably late thirties and very concerned with customer service and maintaining The Butchery’s stellar reputation in the Ottawa area.

Mark apologized profusely for what happened to me, emphasizing several times that he highly values feedback from customers, especially when something negative happens. As he said to me, “I live for customers like you who speak up.”

He then proceeded to say that he wanted to make it up to me AND my family, inviting us for a complimentary meal. I didn’t want to milk this incident, considering I have four adult kids and grandkids. So only Sue and I dropped in the following Saturday to meet Mark and to enjoy very good hamburgers. I subsequently emailed Mark to thank him.

This is a moment of truth, when a seller has the opportunity to correct a wrong to a customer. Mistakes can actually deepen the customer relationship with a seller IF the incident is immediately acknowledged and effectively addressed. The Butchery got a 10 out of 10 on this.

Contrast this experience with my email feedback to Costco several days earlier. It’s now been a month and I have not received a reply. My inquiry was merely to ask what was going on with their new Kirkland brand Greek yogurt. The price is great; however, the quality has slipped from the Liberty yogurt that Costco carried previously.

Another even more recent example is when I needed to buy new lenses and frames since my prescription had changed. For the past four years I’ve been buying my glasses at Costco. The service has been satisfactory. However, I was unable to find suitable frames since the reading portion of the progressive lens was too narrow. The Costco employee seemed indifferent to my problem, preferring to chat to someone he knew.

So I decided to take my business to the optical dispensary at my optometrist’s office.

To my surprise the lenses were the same price, though the frames were more expensive. However, the optician said she would increase the reading portion of the lens by three millimetres at no extra cost. Bingo!

Why couldn’t Costco have done that?

Because it’s a huge, monolithic organization full of indifferent employees.

Costco has the Goliath advantage of being sloppy when it comes to customer service. They’re a big box store chain that is growing quickly. I think it’s a very good company that brings value to its members and that treats its employees well. But that is not an excuse for being too lazy to respond to feedback from members or to make an effort to help a member select eyeglass frames (I pay $100 a year to belong to Costco).

The “Davids” of the business world, such as The Butchery and my optometrists’ office, have to stay on top of their game constantly, nurturing existing customers and attracting new ones. The minute they get indifferent to customer feedback they risk becoming extinct. I’m glad that The Butchery has its act together and will remain in business for many years to come.

Costco will likely be around for some time to come. However, as the saying goes “The bigger they are…”

Loyal customers: they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.

Chip Bell

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2012 11:26 pm

    Thanks Lynne. It’s actually a butcher retail store with a new hamburger side counter. The owner’s really dedicated, working long hours and being accessible to customers.

  2. August 26, 2012 8:35 pm

    Great post, Jim, and I was really impressed with the restaurant owner, too.

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