Friday, May 22, 2009

Customers: good and bad


During our Entrepreneur breakfast yesterday (May 21st), our speaker told a story about being kicked out of the local IHOP.

It seems he and his wife and a second couple were having brunch in the local IHOP. He has known the owner for many years, and they are regular customers. During the course of their meal, he was telling a story that ended with a slightly off color statement. And being rather gruff, his voice carried. From the table next to them, a women with her family loudly complained at him for his crude comments.

Now this woman's children had been very loud and unruly during the entire meal - so much so that the couples had almost told her to quiet the kids down.

Of course, the result was the two tables arguing back and forth. The owner came up to them and said it would be best if they left.

Let's put ourselves in the position of the owner. He has an argument going on in his restaurant, and has to decide what to do. On the one side is a longstanding customer, on the other, a family with children. If he kicks out the regular, he could lose them. If he kicks out the family, it could be a marketing nightmare - it is an IHOP family restaurant.

What would you do?

I believe he did the right thing. He knew that his friend and regular would undoubtably return, and he could always seat them away from families in the future. The family, however noisy, might just tell their friends about this rude table being removed from the restaurant, etc.

Let's open the net a bit wider: you have a product and you can only deliver it to one of two customers right now - an existing customer or a new customer. Who do you get the product to first? (Or two technical support calls, or two client projects.)

How you as a business owner will balance competing claims for your attention will be critical - not only for the result - but for how your employees will also react in the same situation.

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