Paul "Pablo" Croubalian

5 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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How to Be a Great Customer. Yes It's Worth It!

How to Be a
Great Customer.
Yes It's Worth It!
Sarah Elkins' post, "Get Extraordinary Service, Be an Extraordinary Customer," inspired this one. I could just as easily have titled it, "We're All Idiots Sometimes." I enjoyed Sarah's post where she describes unusual steps taken to ensure a superior customer experience. 

It's those extra steps that endear us to our customers, and them to us.

Customer Experience is a hot buzzword. It's also a two-edged sword. It's a two-way street. 

The service provider and the customer each have a role in its success.

Many of you know that I sold my restaurant and bakery in the Fall of 2014. I had an itsy-bitsy regular menu and a big honking Table d'Hôte. I relied on my suppliers to keep a constant, varied stream of available dishes.

My tech background allowed me to cost dishes on the fly. My staff didn't need extensive training every freaking time I pulled a new recipe out of my butt.

There was synergy in my kitchen.

I would often get offered some deal before lunch and it would be on the menu by 16:00.

This morning, I as I re-read Sarah's post, (yeah, I liked it that much) my cell phone rang. It was one of my old suppliers.

He had a problem.

A nearby restaurant ordered 20kg of deboned chicken thighs. (That's 44 pounds for you Yanks and Brits.) 

The supplier shipped them bone-in instead of deboned.


Poop happens.

It was a clerical error. The order was entered as bone-in. The customer was billed for bone-in. The rep offered the restaurant three choices.

  • He would deliver the 20kg of deboned thighs within the hour. (He was in his car doing just that when he called). He would also bill them as bone-in by way of apology. 
  • The bone-in thighs were, of course, unsaleable. He offered them to the restaurant at C$1.50 the kilo. That's about C$0.67 a pound. Wow!.
  • The restaurant could choose either option or both.

I think he was doing a great job of making up for a mistake. A good supplier is not one who never makes a mistake. We all make mistakes. 

I define a Good Supplier by what he/she does when that inevitable mistake happens. It's when the shit hits the fan that you can tell who is who.

The Chef answered, "Get me my stuff, NOW! Take your crap back!" Well, he actually said, something like, "J'men Crisse-tu de tes problèmes? Reprends t'es maudites marde de cuisses pi amenes-moi mon stock l'a l'a!"

I know that Chef. He's a good guy though a little high-strung. His tightly orchestrated ballet just bit the dust. He was hot under the collar. 

He wasn't thinking clearly.

Poker great, Daniel Negreanu, said, "When you play the big tables, it's best to check your balls at the door."

That also applies to business. 

Passion is good. But, not when it interferes with business logic.

20kg of bone-in thighs becomes 13-15kg of boneless thighs in about an hour. The bones are perfect for stock.

No prep-cooks available? They can be hot-oven baked and hand deboned after cooking. That would make great chicken pot pies, vol-au-vents, etc, etc, etc.

Deboned thighs are the tastiest part of the chicken. Breast just have a better PR department. The possibilities with thighs are nearly endless. 

Worst case scenario? Just freeze the darned things for later use.

The Unwritten Agreement

There is an unwritten agreement between suppliers and consumers. Good consumers usually get good service. Good suppliers usually get good consumers.

The supplier held up his end of this unwritten agreement. The Chef didn't. He wasn't obliged to accept the concession. He was obliged to decline politely.

And, no, the customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is an idiot. Heck, aren't we all idiots at one time or another!?

Back to the phone call. 

The rep knew me of old. He asked if I knew anyone who could use 20Kg of bone-in thighs "au plus sacrant, tabarnak!

That's Québecois French for "very soon."

I asked how much. He told me.

I don't have a restaurant anymore, but I do have a freezer. I was thrilled to take them off his hands. Anytime I can buy $180 worth of something I use often for $35, I'm a happy camper. 

He dropped them off and we chatted over coffee. That's when he told me this story. He also confided that I was the seventh call he made to get rid of those thighs.

Seriously? What's with people?

Great Customers get Great Experiences.

When we talk about Customer Experience, let's remember that it's a two-word concept. It's a two-way street. The Customer is an equal partner in its success.

The supplier provides the framework. He maintains it. He improves it Kaizen-style. At least, that's what he should be doing.

The customer decides the experience. The customer has his/her role to play.

Some readers will argue that we must give the same level of service to ALL customers. 

I agree. That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm saying that your service is just half the story. The Customer is the other half. 

By all means, make your half as great as humanly possible. That part you can control.

You can't control the other half. At best, you can only influence it.

As a consumer, I just ask for fair, honest, polite treatment.

As a supplier, I ask for the same.

I don't think that's too much to ask. 

What do you think?



Blog Poets

About the Author

I'm a ghost but not the kind that's to pottery
wheels I'm the wnting kind

Toften wonder if Im a tech-savvy writer or a
writing-savvy technologist Maybe I'm both. As
one CMO put it, "Paul makes tech my bitch!
That might be going a hittle too far

QbeBee *
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Phil Friedman

5 years ago #19

Paul \ - Très bien, mon ami.

Paul "Pablo" Croubalian

5 years ago #18

Ok, my turn to correct you... n'est-ce pas? Mind you, c' n'est pas is very Quebecois for "it's not" as in "c'n'est pas bon" a contraction​ of "ce n'est pas bon"

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #17

Paul \- hopefully, some will. For that is what these discussions should be about -- an exchange of ideas and opinions, c'nest pas?

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #16

Yes, Sarah, I do get what you're saying, and I do get what Paul is saying. But based on my business experience, which is predominantly customer-service centric, I disagree. There is no doubt that a pleasant, easy to get-along-with customer generally gets better service than one who is not warm or friendly. However, while that may be a fact, it is neither representative of the way things should be, nor an approach that maximizes business success. And when one takes to provide counsel on running a business (which also means what attitudes to inculcate and tolerate in one's line employees), one should be careful not to give incorrect advice. In short, I applaud you actions and reactions in the situation you described in your article (which, BTW, I did read well before seeing Paul's post), as would any parent who has had to take an infant to a restaurant, as your manager or the restaurant owner, I would of been upset had you not given the same level of consideration to a customer whom you deemed not to be as "nice". Person to person, we always owe it to others to be civil. But B2C retail customers do not owe anything, over and above that, to the B, except to pay the bill. Just as we on social media have a responsibility to be civil and polite to others who write and publish, but are not obligated to agree with them, nor to forego expressing disagreement -- don't you agree?

Paul "Pablo" Croubalian

5 years ago #15

Any retailers out there who would like to weigh in on whether B2C is a business relationship? Restauranteurs (I can tell you that is definitely a business relationship!). Hoteliers? Retail store owners/managers?

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #14

And I know you get this, Phil. Your debate seems more like an intent to be contradictory.

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #13

Paul's point was that a customer is a lot more likely to get good service if he is behaving reasonably and with some level of kindness & respect. Not that as a service person, we can demand that from our customers, but to expect it from another human being? I think that's pretty reasonable.

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #12

It wasn't about responsibility as a customer, but about your responsibility as a human being. I think Pauls

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #11

It's not about their responsibility as a customer, Phil, it's about their responsibility as a human being. I did expect some level of civility, but I think Paul \

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #10

Paul \, I didn't say you did. What I am saying is the retail customer is NOT a business partner who has responsibilities other than to pay as promised. And that, beyond refraining from being uncivil, no other lack of on the part of the customer, no lack of sympathy for your problems, is the basis for saying that customer should not receive what he or she paid for. In short, I didn't say YOU said that. I am saying only that I think the way you outline the B2C relationship as the same as B2B implies to some others that if the customer isn't a "good" customer, he or she is not entitled to get what was paid for. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #9

Sarah, not to put too fine a point on it, but do you notice how you talk about how YOU were "...great at reading customer satisfaction, table readiness & dynamics, and timing." Not once do you talk about how the restaurant guest (customer) needed to understand the flow of work in the kitchen and why the meal was slow in coming out. Or being sensitive to keeping a neat table to ease the work of the buss-person. Or just understanding that they were not the only guest being served, and never mind that their soup was getting cold because nobody brought them a spoon with which to eat it. To be sure, you might expect a measure of civility, like not snapping their fingers at the servers or you, or yelling loudly for more wine or coffee or whatever. But I bet you were good at what you did, precisely because you udnerstood that your job was seeing to their needs, not the other way around. Cheers!

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #8

Tickled to inspire a piece by Paul \, especially for a post that shares an important dynamic between customer and service provider.

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #7

and Paul - There is a point missing in this debate, I think. It's not about the labels: Customer, business, supplier. It's about being reasonable, kind, and considerate of the people around you. Business is about people, no matter the label you wear. And thank you, Paul \, I'm tickled that my post resonated enough with you to write an article like this. My years in the restaurant industry were some of my best in terms of job satisfaction, even though I wasn't particularly good at being a server. My favorite job was to host; I was great at reading customer satisfaction, table readiness & dynamics, and timing. But that's all for another post, I think.

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #6

Paul \, see for example, Keith Manwaring's comment below. He is correct in what he says, but I submit that the B2C relationship is NOT a "business relationship, since one party is not a "business" -- or at least not acting in that capacity when buying as a "retail consumer". (As a businessman, I never buy "retail".) And if you think that you're retail customer owes you anything, except perhaps civility, I predict you will soon be looking to move on to another business. Cheers!

Paul "Pablo" Croubalian

5 years ago #5

And please point out where I said it's OK to give crappy customer service

Paul "Pablo" Croubalian

5 years ago #4

Actually, Phil I don't think so. The more I talk with B2B and B2C people, the only real differences (gross generality coming) lie in the thought processes each follows and in the reason behind the buy. B2B is usually needs based and revolves around doing more or using less. B2C can be anything. The buy cycle is also (again, generally) longer in B2B.

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #3

Paul \. with all due respect, I believe that in this piece you conflate B2B (business to business) relationships with B2C (business to consumer) relationships. B2B relationships are partnerships, in which cooperation and mutual fair treatment between the partners results in long term profits and other benefits for both parties. However, in a B2C relationship, the B is offering specified goods and/or services for sale to the C, and the C's responsibility in the agreement. unless specifically altered by contract, extend only to paying timely as agreed, and to receiving said goods and/or services. It is not the C's responsibility to be reasonable or understanding about the B's problems, delays, and failures in supplying what was promised. To be sure, it often works to the ultimate benefit of the C to be reasonably so. BUT IT IS NOT INCUMBENT UPON THE C TO BE SO. And the C not being so is not a justification giving that C crappy customer service. If you don't like a C or his or her manner, don't take their money. And don't enter into a relationship with the C in the first place. And if the C becomes too difficult to deal with, don't whine about it; just give him or her back any monies paid, and say a pleasant adios.But please, please stay off your freakin' high horse about it. For the B owes the C what it has promised to deliver. Period. While the C owes only what he or she has paid or promised to pay upon receipt of delivery or prior to it, as may be agreed. Cheers!

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #2

Now I know you are a leg man Paul \. And I agree. We are all idiots sometimes. I just wish my wife didn't remind me so often. (Too be clear, I usually deserve it).

Paul "Pablo" Croubalian

5 years ago #1

Sarah Elkins is mentioned in this article

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