Mrs. Jones was not a friendly person, nor a happy person. In fact, she was downright hostile. But she was a regular customer in our small grocery store. She was the cook at a local non-profit establishment, and she expected “good deals” because it was non-profit.
She also expected all of our checkers to remember that she didn’t have to pay sales tax. And of course, by the time she finished chewing them out over prices or an empty spot on a shelf or not being able to find 27 pork chops all the same size and shape, they were usually too rattled to remember about the tax. So they got chewed out again.
Mrs. Jones shopped early and I had the afternoon through evening shift, so I heard about her long before I met her. What I knew was that when she came in, the checkers would watch her, and try to time their breaks for the time she would arrive at the check out counter. No one wanted to wait on Mrs. Jones!
Finally, one of our morning crew had enough. She decided to tame this beast, and she began a campaign to be so friendly that butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. She told the other girls that she would be the one to wait on Mrs. Jones – so if she was busy elsewhere, to call her to the front when it was time.
She started by trying to greet her as she entered the store. “Good morning, Mrs. Jones, I’m glad to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in.”
Then, at the check out counter she would comment on the wise choices Mrs. Jones had made and talk about how she knew everyone would enjoy the meal that would result. And she told her that she’d heard what a wonderful cook she was. Sometimes she even mentioned some particular meal – saying that someone had told her how superb it was and how Mrs. Jones really put extra effort into making meals special.
And of course, she made sure someone was on hand to carry the groceries to the car, and always thanked her again for shopping with us.
The campaign took about two weeks, and then Mrs. Jones began to thaw. She confided to our employee that people in other stores were always rude to her. She talked about how other checkers always tried to cheat her and how other people’s prices were too high. And then she started to talk about what an exceptional store we had. She started smiling at all of our employees, and acting happy to be shopping.
By the time a few months had passed, Mrs. Jones was friends with everyone in the store. And the meat cutter had started doing special cuts for her – so that all of the pork chops or chicken breasts or steaks would be the same size. She was so pleased that she naturally started giving him compliments, so they both felt good.
Then we started getting new customers – customers who told us that Mrs. Jones said ours was the only place to shop. Talk about referrals and word-of-mouth advertising! Mrs. Jones was a walking advertisement for us.
She became such a good friend that when she moved away, we all chipped in to buy her a going away present, and all signed a card wishing her well in her new home.
If you have a customer who is always grumpy and unpleasant, think about Mrs. Jones. Maybe all that customer needs is a strong dose of attention, appreciation, and kindness.
Marte Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter who specializes in making people feel good about buying products or services.
She has extensive experience in writing search engine optimized web copy, direct sales letters, postcards, space ad copy, press releases, and more. She is also available for marketing plan creation and editing services.