Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Good and Bad of Customer Notices

I sat down with a friend of mine at a local Chinese Buffet (something I've avoided while dieting) and we were given a small card to place at our table. In addition to being a table-holder (to avoid losing our table while we were at the buffet), the card had a few buffet rules, one of which read, "In order to keep costs down, we ask that you do not take any food from the restaurant." I thought that was well put. Why? On one hand it is polite and respectful, and on another, it lets the customer know that by abiding by the rule, they will benefit. Take food out = higher costs; don't take food out = costs are contained.

But how many times have you seen something like this: "Taking food out of buffet is PROHIBITED! Anyone caught taking food out will be charged at take out buffet prices." How does that make you feel? I feel insulted myself. I've actually seen restaurants with notices like that all over the place. Do I go back? Nope. To me, statements like that send the message that the establishment has either a contempt for its customers or lack of trust - or both. What if I had an issue with them in the future? Think they'll believe me? Unlikely.

A few years back I was on my Parish's Athletic Association Board and we were concerned about the number of people littering on our fields. One person suggested a harshly worded sign, such as "Do Not Litter! Those caught littering will be asked to leave." I suggested one more kindly worded: "Please help us maintain an attractive and pleasant sports venue by depositing your litter in one of the conveniently located trash cans." They opted for the former (much to my chagrin) and I'm not sure what difference it would have made, but I felt that statement was too confrontational and the last thing we want to do is to make parents any more confrontational at their child's sporting event.

Another example are postings about surveillance cameras: "For your safety, these premises are under surveillance." Really? The company went through all that for me? I Doubt it. Again, I feel insulted by such signs--as if I'm going to tell myself, "wow, this company really cares about me." Why don't they be honest? They can post something like "For your safety, the safety of our employees, and to reduce crime, these premises are under surveillance." I can buy into that. Nobody wants to be robbed and if someone does rob the store, quick shop, gas station, or whatever it is, I'd want them caught!

There are more examples, but you get the point. Next time you want to post a statement for customers (in writing or even as a recorded message) consider how the customer would feel about its tone, demeanor, and underlying messages.

Tashi Delek!

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