Published March 13, 2022

Upside Down Under: Make customer service a priority…

Written by
Marvin Baker
| The Dakotan
Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker

Those of us who live in North Dakota like to think we are up-to-date with the rest of the nation, savvy about technology and on top the world because we are “North Dakota friendly.”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re not even close. We are so far behind in certain aspects of daily routine living that we may never catch up.

It starts with customer service, or the lack of it.

There are a lot of businesses in this state that seem to think their revenue is automatic whether they treat their customers with a smile or a snarl.

On many occasions, you can go into a place of business, most notably retail, purchase items and the cashier doesn’t say thanks or anything. Some of them won’t even look at you when the transaction is being made.

What a great way to kill future sales!

What many of these merchants don’t seem to realize is that most of them have competitors, so they’ll get the one sale, then it’s done and they wonder why they aren’t selling widgets. One and done!

It’s easy! Treat customers with respect and have the common decency to make eye contact or better yet, strike up a conversation, and business might just come rolling through the door.

If you go to states like Florida, California, Hawaii, or Arizona, you, the stranger who has never been there before, is treated just as well as the locals, if not better.

They understand that they need repeat business to stay in business, and they do an excellent job of catering to their customers.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a hotel, a grocery store, a lumber yard, a car dealership, or even a newspaper, you’re always treated with the utmost respect.

So why doesn’t that happen in many places in North Dakota? Tourism is the No. 2 industry in North Dakota. You’d think there would be a better relationship with the customer. But there isn’t. Maybe some kind of training is warranted.

There are actually businesses in the state that provide as little as possible, avoid conversation with customers at all costs, jack the price of products for no other reason than to make more money than the next guy and expect the customer to be the cordial one.

When the oil boom was going on in Williston, you could stand in line at a place like McDonald’s for 15 to 20 minutes, place an order and then hear them say, “We’re out of Big Macs today.”

So you order something else, and it too is gone. Then the cashier says they have fish sandwiches, but there is no tarter sauce. Take it or leave it.

Some of that carried over to today. Certain items sell better than others and when they are gone, the consumer either buys something else or goes without.

Select gas stations will actually charge 10 cents more per gallon of gas but put a sign on the pumps that you get a 10-cent discount by paying cash.

Gee, aren’t they doing me a favor? And when you go in to pay cash, the cashier says, “Nope, computer glitch, can’t give you the discount today.”

There are numerous restaurants that have items on their menus but don’t stock the meal. For instance, you may order something like a beef stroganoff dinner only to find out it’s been discontinued.

This happens more often than you would think, and it happens with taverns as well. Many will list “beers on tap” and when you order up your favorite beverage, you won’t get it because it no longer exists in that establishment.

And when you make a comment about it; “We recently changed our menu and besides, we can only get what the distributor gives us.”

OK, so then why does the tavern two blocks away have the very beer the other doesn’t?

What’s really disturbing is when they label a beer like Samuel Adams an import just so they can charge more for it. Sam Adams is brewed in Massachusetts not Belgium.

Service stations that don’t provide windshield washer fluid, cafes that don’t give you ketchup when you order a burger or hot dog, offering a buy-one-get-one-free sale but not honoring it and closing at no predetermined time like 10:30 in the morning, are all examples of what’s been going on in North Dakota.

If you think I’m making this up, drive around the state and pick random communities along the route and see it for yourself. And these people wonder why Bismarck and Fargo get all the business.

If these characters want my money, they’ll have to earn it. The product may be good but if the customer service isn’t, there’s no point in making the purchase.

It’s really a no-brainer and comes down to lack of customer service in many establishments. In others, they’ll bend over backward to accommodate their customers. Those are the places I’ll continue to frequent.

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