If You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About Please Shut Up!

Bad Sales graph There seems to be a lot of blame going on in Albany, maybe its catching. 

In Albany we seem to have three situations: the closing of the inner city YMCA, the building of the new Honest Weight Food Co-Op, and a charter school. 

The Y and the charter school have poor attendance — code for "not enough customers" — and they are both ruminating as to why the facilities should stay open. The Food Co-op is raising money for their new building and does not have enough investors. I know, I know, these are bad economic times—let’s get that out of the way. But let me remind you, a business is a business; I don’t care if it’s a not-for-profit, for-profit or no-profit. To stay in business, a business must have enough money to pay its bills and have some left over—that’s called profit. 
The problem for all three businesses is not enough paying customers— period. Did this just happen? I doubt it. Many of you know these statistics by heart, by the time a business is 5 years old 80% of its new business comes from referrals and existing customers.

Who is supposed to get customers for these businesses?

The problem with customer loss, it doesn’t just happen. Some bad reviews, annoyed customers and you’re on your way out the door.

By the way, I go to the local Y; it’s really close, I love my trainer and I can get in and out in 45 minutes.

Why? Because there are no customers! I feel the same way about Staples and I hope they’re not next.

Yesterday I’m on my way out of the Y and I hear a couple at the desk ask about the indoor track. I want to cry over the next three minutes as I listen to the woman at the counter literally talk the couple out of using the track.

With all due respect she didn’t look like she had ever run anywhere — no less on the indoor track. She also suggested that the couple go to the Y across town! There were too many people standing around agreeing with her for me to slap her — maybe they all work for the other Y on their days off. I got to speak with the “potential customers” in the parking lot.  They said they were delighted that she had told them about the Y and for being so truthful. “Truthful, I remarked, she doesn’t look like she ever saw the track, to which they laughed and said that’s what they were thinking. I also added, I’m a runner and as long as there are no cars or dead bodies in the way what could be wrong with the track? By this time they were on their way to the crosstown Y. They say an unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen so you can be sure the membership isn’t going up this month. 

By the way the Y needs a bunch of members to stay open.

So the track is not great; the upstairs gym was a little cold for Zumba and Yogi, but I can wear a sweater. Did I tell you the Zumba instructor forgot her music? As a friend said, it’s like going to a gun fight and leaving your guns at home.  The Zumba instructor had 50 excuses as to why her life was too complicated to remember her music, Lisbeth, mind your business and hold your tongue. The woman next to me replied just loud enough for me to hear, "who cares about her life?" and then she repeated in Spanish for her friends!

Okay so the Co-op is another story. I have been volunteering to pack bags at the checkout. This is a good time to ask if a person’s a member, because members get an automatic 2% discount. Of course after bringing this up the cashier explains that I didn’t tell the truth. She says you have to invest $100 and if you want a 10% discount you have to work 3 hours a month.

Doesn’t she know, most people don’t want to work for “nothing” — not even 10%? Consider that a $100 investment will make you feel like an insider, part of something good.  In addition she said I was pushy. 

Guilty as charged!  Some of our customers travel 3 hours to come to the Co-Op, honest. Shouldn’t we give them a little something extra?

In my book, pushy is when you’re trying to sell something of little value, not something of value.

Oh don’t forget the Charter School with the kids on TV crying about their school closing. The administration said they were proud of the kids for saying what they felt! I don’t even know what that means. They need more students to stay open and it seems that’s the administration’s problem. The effect is the closing of the school; the cause is not building the membership from day 1! Let’s not make it the kid’s responsibility to go out and get the sympathy vote.

Some thoughts about sales:

  • Sales are what make a business whole. 
  • Without customers there’s no reason for a business. 
  • In a business, selling is everyone’s job; teach them how to do it. 
  • Understanding why customers stay or leave is everyone’s job. 
  • One “really” unhappy customer can ruin your business. 
  • 96% rarely complain, they just go away mad. 
  • Things might seem okay, but it’s likely most customers just aren’t happy. 
  • How about some customer service training for all three of these places?

By the way, being proud of the company you represent is real customer service.

I hope Lincoln Pool isn’t next. 


Honest Weight Food Co-op members approve design of new $6M store

4 thoughts on “If You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About Please Shut Up!”

  1. Thanks for this, Liz.
    Very timely and interesting, because I am a member of the co-op, and just joined the Y as part of the Save the Y campaign.

  2. I am a member of the Y and the Co-Op and love both. My concern is that businesses ignore the most important component of their existence–customers. Sales and customer service is the component of all businesses; unfortunately unhappy customers never complain, they don’t complain to the business they complain to their friends.Without this information a business never gets an opportunity to improve. Both the Y and the Honest Weight have been around for over 20 years. In my opinion both need extensive training on how to recruit and keep members. I have never been called by either business and asked, what do I think. As a business consultant the first thing I would do is to survey their customers and find out what they think of the businesses core services; this information is what businesses need to build their competitive advantage and ultimately loyal customers. It’s not all about the economy; there are businesses doing very well while their competitors are dying. The difference? Loyal customers. It will be great to hear your comments after spending time in both businesses. Thanks again.

  3. There is nothing more important than a customer–what they think about your business and what changes they would like. A business must be deligent in finding this out. 96% of customers never complain, they just go away mad. Businesses that have been paying attention to their core customers are thriving. Let me know your continued experiences. Thank you for taking the time to write.

  4. As Sam Walton said, there is no one more important then the customer. The customer can fire you anytime they like!
    Customers and their thoughts are the essence of any business; despite my memberships, I have never been called by either business for feeedback. It will be intersting to hear about your experiences and as you observe the experiences of others. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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