Question: Where did you find a mentor?

Something advocated by most advisers for business owners, which I’ve promoted here as well many times, is that you find a mentor – someone who can advise you in regard to your specific issues, and help you navigate the world of business from having been in your shoes before. The value of such a person is not questioned – but finding an appropriate mentor can be quite the challenge.

Where would you find your mentor, or, if you already have a mentor, how did you select him or her?

Retaining Customers

Last week, I asked what it was that would drive you away from a business. Not surprisingly, the most common answer was customer service, or rather, poor customer service. While consumers can be tolerant of poor quality and high prices, service is something we’re unforgiving of, unless we’ve been prepared to accept it.

As an example, going to dollar stores in general does not make one think of good customer service. The expectation there is that the prices be a dollar (or, with inflation, perhaps as much as two or three dollars). The criteria for measuring the store is in its name, thus there is more flexibility in terms of other factors such as service.

Other businesses, though, do not have that luxury. We expect, when entering a store, to be received in a friendly manner, that the sales staff be knowledgeable about their products. Customers don’t like to wait in line, or be ignored while the staff chat on the floor.

This extends to online stores as well. When we shop online, we have an expectation that we will be notified whether items are in stock, the estimated shipping times, and any extra fees that may apply. The site is expected to have a current security certificate, to ensure that our credit card information is being sent to the site in a secure manner, and being handled responsibly.

If a store processed your card, and you immediately were contacted by fraud alert that several transactions had been processed seconds apart, you would be concerned. Even if the reason for the multiple transactions was later determined to be legitimate, corresponding to each of the expected deliveries, you would not be impressed with the site. If this resulted in a delay in your order being processed, you would be concerned, since the site had precipitated the problem.

This is not an unusual scenario. A recent order placed on the Best Buy website for several hundred dollars of miscellaneous equipment was split into four shipments. A separate charge was placed for each portion of the order (though they were all ordered as a single unit), since the site policy is to bill as the orders are shipped. This makes sense when shipments are being made on different days, but not when they’re all shipped on one day. Not a surprise, the credit card company held the transaction until I verified that the transaction were okay.

Several hours later, I got an email from Best Buy saying that the order was being held because my card was denied. This, in fact, was not correct – the credit card processor had sent an error message that Best Buy was to contact them in regard to the charge, and they had already approved the charge.

In this, the site failed in my expectations. They looked at the order from the perspective of computational simplicity, not from customer experience. Since this had been a compounding of previous bad experiences with their store, they lost me as a customer. The issue was completely in regard to service – and when a store fails in its customer service, it will lose potentially more than just the one customer who had the bad experience.