Friday, 30 September 2005

Free tips for stores and suppliers

Over the last few months in this column we’ve advised consumers on all sorts of things they can do to protect themselves against crippling loan sharks, abusive credit schemes and the generally poor levels of service we consumers receive. This week we’re going to outline some tips, not for us but for suppliers. Some basic rules we think they should adopt to treat us properly and by doing so to gain our custom, earn our loyalty and perhaps even make themselves lots of money?

We realise that these tips are actually obvious but it’s a constant surprise to us that they are so often forgotten. Don’t some suppliers ever take the time to think about how they do business? Don’t some suppliers actually care?

Be honest with us

Don’t make stuff up. Don’t make up answers on the spot just to look good! If we ask you something and you don’t know the answer just be open with us. We’ll respect you for telling us the truth. Just tell us that you don’t know but that you’ll find out. Then make sure that you do!

This honesty extends to the special deals you offer us. Most of us have heard of the false offers we are sold. Only recently we were told of a clothing store that was offering 20% discounts on their range. When our shopper looked closely at the labels these showed the normal price and the new discounted price and yes the discount came to 20%. However when she looked closely she saw that underneath these labels were the original labels that showed that the so-called original price quoted had just been increased! Rather than a 20% discount they were only offering a 7% discount. We can only assume that they deliberately increased the price so that the discount seemed better.

Don’t forget. If you lie, you will get found out, sooner or later.

Show us some respect

We are your customer. We are the ones who are bringing OUR hard-earned money into YOUR store and who MAY consider giving it to you in return for a product. Please show us a little respect. Don’t treat us like we’re irritations, interruptions or idiots. As a community we are increasingly prepared to take our money elsewhere. There are actually very few companies that don’t have a competitor who’d love to get our business and take it away from you.


Don’t some of you realise this yet? Customers really appreciate being greeted with a smile. Doesn’t everyone know that smiling actually makes you, the person smiling, happier? A happier salesperson performs better, is more attentive and makes more money for the business.

Leave your problems at home. If your weekend was awful, you had an argument with your partner or the kids were awful don’t take it out on us. It wasn’t our fault!

So just smile when you greet us OK? Then smile again when we buy something. Then smile yet again when we leave. Smile a few times in between as well!

Be flexible

Allow us to have what we want, within reason. If we don’t want exactly what’s on the menu, why don’t you let us have something a little different? The best restaurants don’t see this as an issue, in fact they encourage it!

Be imaginative

Come up with some bright ideas every so often. Offer us some special deals (ones that really mean something). Give us new items on the menu, new products, maybe even something free?


Please take responsibility for your actions. If something has gone wrong with the products or services you supply, own up to it, remedy the problem and learn from it. When there’s a problem be polite, don’t get defensive, research the matter and if it turns out that you the supplier were at fault then just fix it without fuss. And don’t forget to apologise for the inconvenience your customer experienced.

The customer is not king!

Yes, you read that right. Despite what we’ve read recently in other papers the customer is not king. The customer is just an ordinary guy. It’s not just kings that deserve respect, we all do.

Furthermore the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes the customer is just plain wrong. Sometimes the customer is demanding way too much. Sometimes the customer isn’t worth the effort. Instead of wasting time and money fighting to keep a troublesome customer, sometimes you should willingly lose them and concentrate your efforts on us, the reasonable ones!

A free idea for bars

It’s maybe not our job to lecture people on road safety and drink driving but here’s an idea we’ve shamelessly stolen from another country where we saw it work.

When a group of more than 4 people arrive in a bar one should be able to declare himself the nominated driver. He then gets a badge he can wear which tells all the staff that he shouldn’t be given any alcoholic drinks. Instead he gets a free non-alcoholic drink in every round the group orders. The cost of this is met by the bar management. Like KBL’s great idea over recent holidays when they offered to contribute towards taxi fares it’s a way for the industry to contribute towards the safety of their customers and perhaps even to save a few lives?

Oh and make up some interesting non-alcoholic drinks, not just orange juice and Coke. We’ve put some fruit cocktail recipes on our website if you need inspiration!

This week’s stars!

  • Mojwadi in Customer Services at Bomaid who is apparently “efficient, friendly and helpful”.
  • Thato at BTC for great service. Our reader says that “he takes his time and is patient, and took all the rubbish I gave him without complaining”.
  • Willie at Dros in Gaborone for really friendly service. One reader contacted us to remark on the excellent service there and our mystery shoppers were impressed with Willie in particular.

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