Workplace Wisdom

Is It Really So Hard to Nail Down Customer Loyalty?

I’ve gone to the same tiny nail salon for a number of years. My visits depend on my work and travel schedule, but no matter how many weeks apart, I’ve always gone on a Monday morning to be able to see the same person. There’s a comfort in knowing how things will work.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I should change to a more modern place, a larger place, maybe even a more sanitary place, but it’s been easier to stick with the one I know. The service is good enough, the owner has been pleasant, and it’s only three blocks from my office. Convenience is a powerful benefit, as is consistency.

Hard as Nails

But when I went in last Monday, “my person” wasn’t there anymore. The owner explained that her relationship with “my person” had been deteriorating. My take is that each woman felt she was doing more than her share of keeping it up.

Apparently, the employee had complained about the employer to a customer. Not only is this a huge no-no, but customers will almost always tell. A customer with any business sense knows that a cardinal rule has been violated if she hears bad things from an employee about an owner. The result is often a divided loyalty: part to the employee and part to the employer and the place itself.

It’s understandable that the owner fired the employee once she got wind of this transgression. It’s also understandable that she would want to keep me happy, as a loyal customer who buys higher-priced services and tips well.

The owner could have reassured me that she would take good care of me personally. She could have offered me special extras as enticement to remain a customer. Or she could have thanked me for my years of patronage and asked if I had any feedback for her so she could continue to improve her business.

Last Nail in the Coffin

Instead, she complained about the employee that I had sat across from and chatted with for a number of years. She assumed that I would agree that she had been treating that employee more than fairly.

I don’t have any way of knowing the truth about their relationship. But as things have settled out, my partial loyalty to the owner was not enough to keep me as a customer. I have to get used to a new person anyway, so it’s time for me to change to a more modern, more obviously cleaned nail salon after all; luckily, there are several options within walking distance of my office.

I feel sorry for the employee, who was very nice, even if she wasn’t loyal enough herself, and sorry for the owner, who probably came on too strong with the employee as she did with me. But mostly, as the customer, I want the best possible service for what I’m willing to pay. And that includes seeing someone I feel comfortable with, not hearing that person bad-mouthed by her employer.

Cold-hearted? Maybe a little. But not unreasonable.

What do you think?

Onward and upward,

LK

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