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It came from the flatlands: Why you need to pay attention to customer service

Thursday, 28 November 2013 | By Taskmaster

Well, it’s that time of year again.


By the carload, residents from the sprawling metropolis in the flatlands are making their annual summer pilgrimages up the highway towards Parts Unknown.


It’s funny. When a flatlander visits Parts Unknown and the surrounding hills, it’s called a “retreat”, a “weekend getaway”, a “daytrip” or a “break”. On the other hand, you’ll never hear the locals in Parts Unknown pining for more air pollution, traffic, crime or noise. When a local visits the city, it’s usually called “work”, and the trip is compensated for accordingly.


The hills around Parts Unknown are filled with an eclectic mix of tradies, hippies, tree-changers, professionals, local business people and little sprats on skateboards. Despite the differences, your humble correspondent has observed it’s usually fairly easy to pick a flatlander from a local.


We slow to moderate pace when driving in town and courteously stop when pedestrians want to cross. We stroll down the main street at a leisurely pace and are sure to say “hi” to anyone we pass – as well as their dogs.


The back roads, however, are where speed limits are made to be broken – but it’s easy to drive fast along a winding road after you’ve driven along every curve and gully a thousand times.


The flatlanders are the opposite. They hammer it as soon as they hit town. They don’t stop for pedestrians unless they’ve already begun to cross. They power-walk to their urgent 1pm appointment with a bagel in the local coffee shop, avoiding making eye contact with anyone wandering past.


And then when the flatlanders hit the back roads, their spotless white sedans grind to a near total standstill—usually in the middle of two white lines. They get overwhelmed by the sight of more than three or four trees in the same place – a sight they’ve apparently never seen before. It makes their eyes glaze over and instinctively grab their camera phone.


Without a care, they’ll toss the remainder of their bagel out the car window, along with their empty Coke can. It’s a good thing the hills are filled with magical garbage collecting fairies, otherwise this might come to annoy the locals.


Most of the time, the flatlanders gravitate towards the tourist traps, unaware of many of the art galleries, theatres and other retreats the locals have hidden through the hills for their own enjoyment. But many of the shops and businesses in town will find both locals and flatlanders turning up – and the customer service challenges soon follow.


The regulars – the locals – walk in and say something like “g’day Bruce” and the shop owner will almost instinctively begin grabbing what they’re after. Often at a leisurely pace – there’s no race. Meanwhile any change – even for the better – is a cause for complaint from the locals.


Meanwhile flatlanders visiting a local store for the first time either stare at the menu with eyes glazed for an eternity or want their item now! “Excuse me, I’ve waited three whole minutes for my salted skinny vicuñacino! What’s taking you so long! Quit talking to the locals and get my pie! I’m a busy person you know and I’ll never come here again!” (The locals within earshot all roll their eyes.)


The thing is, many local businesses have mastered the art of consistency for the locals and patient guidance for the flatlanders.


Now, your business isn’t in Parts Unknown. But in many industries, your product will be used both by regular customers (like the locals), and people who are trying it out for the first time (like the flatlanders). In truth, the same experience will be received differently by both sets of customers.


Well, Old Taskmaster says it’s worthwhile taking a look at your product offering. Is it user friendly and intuitive to use for a first timer? Likewise, is the added support for first time customers implemented in such a way as it isn’t cumbersome for a regular customer?


Think it through from both perspectives and make sure you present a great customer experience for both sets of customers!


Get it done – today!