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You’ve heard the dissatisfaction time and time again.
I mean, you have probably experienced it yourself. You go to the Haitian bakery to pick up your patties. It’s supposed to be an easy and pleasant experience, but you tend to walk away from the business with a negative experience. This is a constant refrain amongst Haitian customers.
Whether it’s our favorite bakery, coffee shop, restaurant, or we’re buying mangoes or djon-djion (mushrooms), most of us admit that our food and our products are good, but our culture of poor customer service is a turn-off, and it’s likely contributing to a weak business.
I know I’ve experienced bad customer service from Haitian businesses, and you probably have, too. And yes, I know that some non-Haitian businesses have poor service, too, but ours seems systemic.
Some blame it on culture, others blame it on a lack of care or simply a lack of customer service education.
Well, it’s time we address some of these bad experiences and spill the beans on what we openly discuss with our friends, co-workers, and now on social media.
Many Haitian customers and clients simply have few outlets to provide feedback to owners. Think about it, when was the last time you filled out a form to provide feedback to a Haitian business owner?
Do the Haitian businesses even provide such outlets? I rarely see one. And if they do, when was the last time, you, as the owner sat down and read your customers concerns or responded to their questions?
The businesses that are successful are often obsessed with customer service. But providing the customer with an outstanding experience demands the ability to listen. It takes time, deliberate planning, and a well thought-out execution.
If you’re a business owner, it’s perfectly normal to feel somewhat defensive; you might not be willing to see or accept some of the things shared in this article. I encourage you to keep an open mind while you’re reading.
After you’ve read this post, you’ll know exactly what some of your customers are thinking, and what you can start thinking about to improve the customer experience for your business.
Here are 40 things that Haitian customers wish they could tell you as a business owner.
1) I really, really, want to support your business. I want to help you make money, but you need to know that how you make me feel when I walk into your store determines how much I buy or whether or not I come back. I want to feel welcome and special. I like to get the sense that I’m wanted there and not a burden.
2) When I visit your place of business, I’d love it if you could welcome me with a smile. Oftentimes, you or your sales representative look like you just had a fight with someone. As the customer who just walked in, your facial demeanor makes me feel like I just walked into a boxing ring.
3) I’d like to come into a business that looks clean and organized, not one that looks like a garage.
4) It’s fine to hand me the change in my hands and not to smack it on the counter when I pay.
5) I wish you didn’t think that because you have great patties, you don’t have to make an effort to provide excellent customer service.
6) I’d love it if you could wish me a great day and ask me to visit again. I would come back, and I would bring more of my friends.
7) I can usually tell how you treat your employees and how much respect you show them, based on how they treat and respect me when I walk into your shop. Your employees are a reflection of you and your values.
8) Please be mindful of the chatter with your co-workers while I am waiting for you to complete my order. I don’t want to hear all the gory details of what happened last night.
9) I wish you would serve your customers with purpose. This means you can be polite while you move the line along efficiently. Buying six patties should not have to cost me a parking ticket because a ten-minute transaction lasted for twenty-five minutes.
10) One of the most important sounds to me is my name. Please make an effort to know it.
11) I wish you would have a website that works with your brick and mortar.
12) If you have a website, please make sure it works before you put it on your social media pages. I get so excited to check out your business, and imagine my disappointment when I get a message that the site does not exist.
13) If you have a business in 2017, it might be a good idea to have a working website! It’s probably your only opportunity to make a first and lasting impression.
14) Be aware that at times, I am going to change my mind at least three or four times before I decide on what I want to buy.
15) I admit, sometimes I walk into your place of business, and I don’t know what I want. Please be patient with me.
16) I wish you would not open a business if you are not ready to take care of the customers.
17) Be kind always, even if you don’t like me as a customer.
18) I wish you would evaluate your business several times during the year. Familiarity breeds complacency, so be careful you do not become lax in your service. You might have started out well, but now that you’ve gotten some success, the quality of the service is compromised.
19) For the men who make it a habit to flirt with the ladies, please stop.
20) Be professional and provide more than expected.
21) I wish you would not be so distracted with your smartphone that I have to repeat my order two to three times.
22) I’d love it if you could follow up with me in a few days after a BIG purchase. After all, I might need additional items that I didn’t think about while I was in your store.
23) Please don’t assume that because I am of African descent, I automatically want to order the chicken. That is a form of stereotype.
24) A simple thank-you can make me smile and raise my energy level tenfold. It tells me my patronage was appreciated.
25) Communicate with your customers. If a product is on back-order, or you don’t have it or will not be able to deliver it on time, please communicate that. Don’t keep us guessing or wondering what is going on. Make every effort to be open.
26) Please, please, don’t behave as if you are doing me a favor by taking my money when I visit your store.
27) You think I am not paying attention, but I see how you treat the “blan” foreigner like royalty, and you treat me as a second-class citizen.
28) It’s a good idea to go beyond average and find ways to create value for the customer. You’d be surprise how I can become a walking evangelist for your store or your brand. For example, if I frequent your store often, you can create a reward program for me so I will keep coming back.
29) Don’t be a stranger. Don’t just reach out to me around Christmas and Mother’s Day and special holidays. Check in every once a while and say hello. A monthly or weekly newsletter might do wonders.
30) Our culture does not eat mostly salad, so if you’re in the food business, please give us the right portion of food for the price we pay.
31) If you have an amazing product, it’s a good idea to spend money to market it. If most people in the community don’t know you exist, how do you expect to grow? If you have a good product, spend money to get the word out.
32) And the opposite is true. If you don’t have a good product, don’t spend money to market it.
33) Make every effort to let your brand be about excellence.
34) If you spoil your customers, you will earn their loyalty.
35) I love gifts. How about as a thank-you for my loyalty, I get a nice gift to thank me on my birthday?
36) I’d love it if and when you make a mistake with my order that you own it. It’s never a good idea to attempt to blame the customer.
37) On timing, if your hours say that you’re open from 8:00 a.m., please don’t keep me waiting outside your establishment for thirty minutes before you open.
38) Yes, I know I can be a bit difficult and spoiled, I’d love it if you offer samples in the store for me to try. It could put me in a good mood, and I might even end up buying more.
39) I don’t mind paying a premium for your product or service, but you have to find out what value means to me as a customer. I might not value what you think I do.
40) I am an individual, and I don’t like to be treated like everyone else. Remember I said earlier that I like to feel special when I walk into your store. It’s true, I do.
These are some of the things that we wanted you to know. Of course, there are more, but I think 40 should give you enough to think about and start implementing.
Your turn: Have you experienced any of the things above at a place of business? If so, share your thoughts with me below. What else would you add to this list that you have encountered?
About the author: Daniella Bien-Aime is the founder of the Bien-Aime Post, a digital media platform that focuses on business, leadership, education, and social media within the context of Haiti and its diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @dbienaime.