Being Right or Keeping a Customer – Which is More Important?


I recently had an experience that caused me to say something I don’t often say. “I will never do business there again.”

I was angry and frustrated, but, more than anything else, the situation really made me wonder:

Why is it that so many people in the service industry feel the need to puff up and behave in a belligerent way towards their customers instead of coming from a place of service?

Here is what happened:

A few weeks ago, Gretchen had an upset stomach so I took her to ASH, otherwise known as Animal Specialty Hospital of South West Florida. They have been our “go-to” place for any vet needs over the past couple of years when we are down here.

They checked her out, prescribed some antibiotics and anti-nausea products, and gave me some low fat food for her then, sent us on our way.

Once the prescribed food was gone we went back to her normal diet as instructed at the hospital. A few days later, I noticed that she did not seem to have as much energy on the homemade food I have been making so I went back to buy more of the food they gave me.

When I explained why I was there, the receptionist was unsure how to help me because she said they don’t sell that food.

Now, this came as a bit of a shock to me because they gave me the food (technically I bought it from them) just a few weeks earlier and she was unable to tell me where I could go and buy more.

She asked me to wait while she went into the back to speak to someone and try to get me more information.

To my surprise, out came a vet tech who was very determined to give me a lecture rather than service.

Before I even had a chance to speak she basically read me the riot act on why they don’t sell this food and how you have to get it prescribed by your regular vet because they don’t stock enough to sell to everyone, and they only have enough to use for their patients.

Her tone was super condescending and I could feel myself wanting to tell her to take her six cans of food that she was so ungraciously allowing me to buy and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. But I didn’t…

After she was done with her lecture, she proceeded to tell me she could order the food for me with their regular inventory order if I wanted.

I didn’t think my jaw could drop any lower than it already had, but it did. I told her no thank you and left.

I could have made a scene, but there was no need because two things happened when she was going off on her tangent:

  1. I decided to get a regular vet who would treat me nicely.
  2. I decided there was no way in hell I would order this very premium and very expensive dog food from them.

This situation could (and should) have been handled in a very different way.

The young woman could have come out and treated me nicely. She could have explained that although they do not carry it on-site to retail, they would be happy to order it with their next inventory shipment, and how many cases would I like.

Instead, she ticked me off to the point that I will no longer take my dogs there unless it is an emergency and I have no choice.

That means, the $700 I spent a few weeks ago when Gretchen had an upset tummy will go to another vet next time.

Service is valuable. When you treat your customers well – they keep coming back. <—Click to Tweet

Take a look at this video I did a while back on the #1 Reason Your Customers May Be Walking Instead of Buying:

And, just as important as you understanding this, your team members or employees are an extension of your business model and they need to know as well. Do they understand that their behaviour can help you build a business or lose sales as quickly as they open their mouths?

If not, you need to make sure this is a part of their training. Help them understand the right and wrong ways to handle a situation.

In a time when so many people complain about the economy, my advice is this – treat your customers well and your business will be okay.

One more thing, if you are struggling with finding the passion you once had for your business is dwindling, this can have a negative impact on your level of service. On December 4th at 12pm I will be sharing some of my secrets to keeping that passion for your business alive and well during a Free Webinar. I’d love it if you joined me.


2 thoughts on “Being Right or Keeping a Customer – Which is More Important?”

  1. For me, there’s a fine line between good customer service and annoyance. If I were carrying around tons of clothes, like you were at Banana Republic, yes, I’d expect them to offer to take them and start a dressing room for me. If I’m not carrying anything, just looking around, it’s usually ok with me if no one approaches me. “Hello” is nice, let’s me know they see me.

    The perfect balance is hard to articulate, but I know it when it happens. Not too pushy, but super helpful, making suggestions is fine but when I can tell they are just making canned suggestions like “do you want fries with that?” Then that’s annoying. I want offers of additional stuff to be custom, not what they are told to say by corporate offices.

    Your post reminded me of several experiences I’ve had at the Ann Taylor store in West Des Moines, Iowa. I shop there several times a year, but it’s hit and miss as far as helpfulness. I realize they can’t know that I’ll buy a lot if they help me find what I want, but they should treat all clients the same and not assume one will buy a lot or not, which is what seems to happen in there at times. I also like to shop the sales racks, and it seems I get less help when I”m trying on mostly sale items. Which is really too bad — because I need their style of clothing often (I’m a lawyer and mediator so I wear skirted suits to work daily). I’m less likely to go there and buy full-price items when I’m not helped much when buying from the sales racks.

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Lisa Larter Bio Image of Lisa x400

Lisa Larter

Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.

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