Right before I left LA, I had two very different experiences with customer service that brought to the forefront the idea that how you provide your service is very important for your image.  Then, as I mentioned yesterday, I just recently had another experience that emphasizes how great customer service can make up somebody's mind about the quality of your work!  Even if the quality of your product or service is not related to the quality of your customer service, people will tend to go for people and companies they like and trust rather than ones that have no personal connection, but are mavens at what they do.  And that is the influence of word of mouth, which powers viral marketing.  Nothing is more reliable than the opinions of your closest friends, family, and colleagues.  So, a word to the wise, outstanding customer service can trump many marketing schemes.  And in this day and age, it probably costs a lot less to train employees to interact with your clients considerately than to put out a campaign.  Now let me describe my experiences.

So first of all, I had an excellent time getting my nails done at this little salon in Westwood across from the B of A.  When I went in, I kept asking how much time it would be and they could tell I was in a bit of a rush, so they sat me down and keep reassuring me they would get to me soon.  As soon as they could, they started to work on my nails and even brought a little fan over to speed up the drying of each layer as they painted.  Every now and then, they would say a few words to me to check on how I was doing and start some chitchat.  It was nice that they didn't ignore me and just work away, but also didn't pursue talking if I wasn't being as responsive.  As I was sitting there, grateful that they sensed my urgency and did something about it, I decided to get more services done.  Thus, I asked about their eyebrow waxing and got that done as well.  When it was all done, they gave me these cute little foam slippers to wear since I had closed-toed shoes and put my shoes in a bag for me to carry.  The manner in which they presented themselves was very personable and inviting.  Plus, they offered their services at the best rates I've seen nearby!  I definitely plan on going back to that place for all future needs once I'm back in the area!

Now for the bad experience.  Panda and I went to get dinner at Yamato's as one of the last things we did before I left.  It was also an unofficial belated birthday celebration for him.  The pricing at that place is great and the inside is very elegant-looking.  We were escorted upstairs to a couple's table and ordered.  One of my items was a seaweed salad - classic for me at a Japanese restaurant.  So our huge bento box came and then our hand rolls arrived and there was still no word on the salad.  One of the waitresses came by to ask about the salad and went to check on it - three times.  You would think that after the first time they could throw it together in a few minutes' time.  It's just seaweed after all.  Meanwhile, our actual waiter acted like this was a perfectly normal wait time for a salad.  Huh???  I'm nearly done with my meal!  So, after I had pretty much had everything else, a manager-looking lady came along with it and I munched at it, slightly disgruntled.  It didn't even taste that great, if I remember correctly.  Panda didn't want me getting all upset and being difficult, but I was firm about not being walked over.  I wasn't mean or unreasonable, but I was less than amicable and rather stern.  That's what they get for poor service!  Later, I told my friend Koala about it and he agreed that they don't have very good service there.  I guess that's the price you pay for getting cheap food in a pretty, fancy place!

Finally, I opened up an IRA account with Fidelity yesterday, a bit apprehensive about them, but choosing them in part because I think I heard Panda said he used them and in part because they were the first ones listed.  I hadn't really heard anything about them, how reliable they are, how their quality of service is, etc.  Upon setting up the account, I had some questions about certain procedures.  I e-mailed them and got a timely response soon after the start of their work day.  The reply not only addressed the issue I was contacting them for, but also followed up with questions about what I knew about the transaction and its implications.  I felt pleased that they actually cared that I knew what my decision meant for my finances.  After giving them the information they needed, I got another lengthy reply, fully outlining all the questions I had about what I was doing.  And to top it off, they turned crazy complicated financial jargon into easy to understand plain English terms.  Amazing!  You know what's best?  This is all FREE!  Yaaay!  But because I feel so good about them now, I wouldn't mind paying for their other services when I do need it.  Now that's how you should do business.

Now it's time to take this and evaluate how I approach clients and prospective clients.  In Blink, they mention how people won't sue a doctor because they are bad as much as they will because they don't like them.  Those doctors who spend the time and care to explain to their patients what's going on and involve them don't make less mistakes than other doctors who just go and do their exams.  Yet, they don't get nearly as many lawsuits as the cold, heartless doctors who ignore their patients as they work.  So it's time to work on my repertoire with the people I meet.  Sales is often about the relationship you build with people, rather than your ability to sell the product to people.  A certain level of trust is key to getting your foot in the door to close the deal.