March 18, 2009

Customer Service: A Lost Art?

Sandro Panetta runs a music store. It began with his father Amedeo forty years ago. It continues to thrive today because of a strong family bond and worth ethic. Sandro works hard, his wife and kids are delightful, his parents are wonderful, and his employees adore him – or so he says ;-)

This is the kind of guy you want to support in anyway you can.

We grabbed lunch yesterday and talked about the store’s anniversary this October. He is trying to find a way to celebrate the store’s 40th. He is not a client, he is a friend.

Sandro has been working in the music store since he could walk on his own and now he runs the place with the same passion he had the first day helping his dad. We discussed one of the top attributes of his organization which has come back to him through his own customers through all these years and that is how they treat people.

Competition can help you.

This is a stand alone store competing against chains and department stores for music instruments and products. There is a successful music school as part of the business and whenever you go into the store, you are greeted with an honest smile from people who truly want to help you.

He told me the story of young kid coming in to practice on his dream guitar for weeks on end which turned into a purchase because the kid finally convinced his father to come in a buy it for him. Sandro has one mantra: help every customer and treat them with respect.

Too often the cynicism we feel toward companies stems from the words they use to describe us – consumers, viewers, users or listeners. Sandro calls anyone who comes in to his store a customer – whether they buy something or not. He says you can’t judge someone by what they are wearing or whether they will purchase a drum kit worth thousands of dollars.

This mantra has done him and his dad well for four decades.

Another story is of a guy who came into the store on three occasions for a total of about four hours to test out guitar amps. One of Sandro’s part-time employees spent as much time with this customer as he needed, answering all of his questions, making suggestions, and being patient. On his third visit, he finally bought an amp.

A couple of weeks later the customer called the store and spoke with Sandro. He told him that the service was excellent and that the guy who helped him should be commended. Later in the call, Sandro discovered that the man lived eight hours away and had been in town on an extended work trip. He could have bought the amp anywhere, but because of the exemplary service, he made the purchase in Sandro’s store. And then called to thank him.

Consumers, viewers, users or listeners are just people.

Happy 40th Anniversary to International Musicland in Ottawa. Drop by if you're in town, you'll love the big guitar on the ceiling and all the cool stuff inside. But most of all, you will discover why I think so highly of a guy named Sandro.

How important is customer service to you?

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