Many many years ago I worked at a nice custom jewelry store in South Carolina. My boss was one of the nicest people I had ever worked for. I was young at the time, fairly recently married, and didn’t have any children yet.
We all know just how crazy busy the Christmas season can get. Back in those days, jewelers did 40% of their annual sales in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That year, well before Thanksgiving, we were already booked solid all the way through Christmas. We were working hard, long days, and late hours to push through. Then just a couple of weeks before Christmas, in walks that special customer. You know the sort. They wait until the very last moment then MUST have you bend over backward to accommodate their needs.
This gentleman wanted a custom ring made for his wife as a special Christmas present and HAD to have it complete to be picked up Christmas Eve. The owner explained to him that we were completely booked up and suggested a gift card, but that just wasn’t good enough. Eventually, the gentleman offered to pay an extra $100 bonus for the jeweler to get it done. The owner asked if any of us wanted to stay late Christmas Eve and earn an extra $100 to complete the ring. In those days $100 was pretty good money, so I agreed to stay.
Christmas Eve came and as the other two bench jewelers left I got down to building the ring. It only took a few hours and it came out great.
The customer had agreed to drop by that evening before 9 pm. It was around 8 pm when I finished. The owner stayed late with me. He brought me coffee and helped all he could to get it done. He called the customer to let him know it was ready to be picked up. There was no answer.
After a bit, he called again. Once again, there was no answer. He left a polite message and we settled in to wait for the customer to show up.
The customer had been so insistent on how this was the most important gift and he would absolutely be here Christmas Eve to pick it up. I was proud of the work I had put into something so special. I couldn’t wait to see the smile on his face when he saw how great it turned out.
We waited and waited and waited. We stayed there until nearly midnight. I was stunned that someone could be so crazy insistent that we bend over backward to accommodate him and then dismiss us so easily.
A week later the gentleman walked in to pick up the ring. The owner asked what happened to him Christmas Eve. The man replied, “Oh, I got her something else and decided I would give her the ring later.” If that wasn’t bad enough, the man then added insult to injury by trying to back out of paying the extra $100 bonus because he didn’t pick up the ring on Christmas Eve.
That’s when something amazing happened. My boss called me to come up to the counter where they were standing. As I stood there my boss looked the customer in the eye and said, “This man stayed here until midnight on Christmas Eve to accommodate you! He gave up HIS time with HIS family for you, and you blew him off. You didn’t even think to call and tell us you weren’t coming on Christmas Eve! I think you owe him not just the $100 you promised him for getting the job done, but an apology too.”
In the end, I got the apology and the $100 from the customer. I don’t know if the customer ever did business there again, but the things I learned from the experience are still invaluable.
When you treat your employees with respect, kindness and appreciation of their time and work, they will be willing to work harder and go the extra mile for you. Also, your intake and processing systems are there for all your customers. Don’t break your systems for one customer just because they are loudly insisting or vocal about what they want.