Providing Outstanding Customer Service Is an Art Not a Science

Lessons from Experience

Shortly after my twentieth birthday I went to work in an art gallery. My job was to make the picture frames. The business was run by one man, I’ll call him Peter. We did quite a bit of work for restaurants and pubs. We would source and frame pictures around the particular theme of a restaurant, pub or whatever the establishment might be.

We also did some bespoke work. Customers would bring in their pictures or photographs and we would frame them. A few customers would buy pictures from us. Many of these would be prints of famous paintings – the impressionists were quite popular. Selling pictures – particularly original and limited edition pictures – was an aspect of the business that Peter wanted to expand; but it never really happened, for good reasons as you will discover below.

Peter was not an easy man to get on with. Many people simply did not like him and would do their best to avoid him. He knew this and, publicly at least, took great delight in it. On occasions, however, he could be charming. More often, he could be rude, arrogant and, at times, thoroughly obnoxious. Telus webmail down

Peter frequently displayed his less desirable traits towards his customers (more usually potential customers who were soon dissuaded from becoming customers). There were a small number of customers who came back time and time again. These people were treated by Peter with a service that was almost servile – and I could never work out what it was about this handful of people that Peter treated very differently from the vast majority of others who came into the shop.

With most potential customers Peter revelled in being contrary. If customers asked for advice: he’d refuse; if customers did not want advice: they got it forced upon them; if a particular moulding for a frame was out of stock: he would refuse to order it for customers who requested it; if a particular moulding was in stock; he’d insist that customers who wanted it must have another. I could go on, but you get the picture (pun intended!).

Peter went out of business in about 1986. I’d left a couple of years before. I was not surprised to discover that he went out of business; I was surprised that Peter lasted as long as he did. As I said above, Peter never expanded the picture selling arm of his business and the picture framing aspect was always a very small part of what we did. It was the work for pubs and restaurants that brought in the money, which was never very secure at the best of times.

The recession of the 1980s forced hospitality chains to curtail their spending. This had a devastating effect on the business. By 1981, Peter had started to feel the squeeze, but did little to improve things. From about 1983, the business was in trouble. By 1984, the work from the hospitality companies was not enough to keep the business afloat. There was certainly a market for the bespoke framing service: competitors locally appeared to be doing very well notwithstanding the recession. Peter, however, continued to bite that hand that wanted to feed him.

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