Don’t forget the little people

I had a frustrating experience today which got me thinking about customer service and us smaller customers.  I am a huge Apple fan and went off to look for an Airport Express to help me connect to the network in my new office space (my network port on my PowerBook hasn’t worked since I got it last year but that is another story soon to be brought to an end).  These nift network access devices are really hard to come by lately and my usual Apple store didn’t have any and wasn’t sure when more would arrive.

I managed to contact the new Apple iStore about 25 kilometres from my offic and a really helpful sales guy there told me they had one in stock and would hold it for me.  Even though the Airport Express costs roughly R1 200 here (a good few hundred bucks more than other makes of wireless access device) I was happy to spend a bit more to have another Airport Express for my new office (I have an Airport Express as the access device on my home network).  So I got into my car and drove out there.  I couldn’t find the store in the mall so I called them for directions and one the guys there came out to find me (they were that helpful) but when I got to the till and was holding the box and offering my card to pay for it, they told me they actually couldn’t sell it to me because it was reserved for another store.

As helpful as they had been I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I told the poor guy who broke the news to me how far I drove to get this thing, seemingly the only one in town ad walked out.  I called my usual store and asked to speak to the sales guy I prefer to deal with and managed to get to him.  I had actually been trying to speak to him for about a week now and he has’t returned one of my many messages.  We were able to find a solution to my problem (my PowerBook will be repaired next week) but along the way I came to believe that while my quest for a R1 200 device was a big thing for me, it wasn’t such a big thing for these otherwise friendly and helpful sales guys (they were all men, I am not being sexist by calling a girl a ‘guy’).

It got me thinking about how we tend to see our bigger customers as more deserving of our time and attention than the little customers and while that might make sense from the perspective of the business owner, it isn’t such a great experience as the customer.  I think it is a good idea to remember that feeling lest we start to treat our smaller customers as somehow less important to us.  Besides, you never know when a smaller customer could become a big one and if you don’t treat that customer well when the customer is small, she may not be there for you when she is a big customer.






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