For the past few years we’ve had the great fortune to offer Speed Coaching to the fabulous women at the Women in Biz Network Conference. Last year we got to know Avery Swartz, who, as her web site will tell you, makes web sites. Turns out though, that’s not all she does. In 2012, Avery opened the doors to Camp Tech, a training business which offers “practical, professional tech skills training in a fun and friendly environment.” We loved the idea of tech training that doesn’t hurt.
We’ve now taken a couple of Camp Tech classes and can say that we’ve learned a ton in both. The instruction is excellent: Information is delivered simply and succinctly but with a friendly and humorous tone. There are helpers on hand to answer questions and make sure students are on the same page. Unlike some tech training, class-size is deliberately small. In both of the classes we’ve taken we’ve loved the interesting mix of entrepreneurs, bloggers and beyond, all eager to improve their tech skills. Full-day classes even include a yummy lunch and a few minutes to network with other students.
I am using this space today not as a small business expert, but rather to write about something very personal and meaningful to me: the Boston Marathon.
Having run the storied race two times, I always think of the Boston Marathon at this time of year. This year, however, it has been on my mind more than usual, even before the tragic events of April 15th.
But it also makes you feel vulnerable. I work hard to train for races, but when it comes down to it, it’s entirely up to me to perform. It’s just me and my sports bra and shorts and a pair of running shoes. When I race, I am literally almost naked.
I guess this is why I’m heartsick about Boston. I keep thinking about the vulnerability of the runners out there on the course, having pushed their bodies to the limit only to run into the face of tragedy. They were without their cell phones, clothing, or families. I’m sickened that the bombs hurt these vulnerable people and their supporters lining the streets.
Of course I was devastated by Newtown. And Aurora. And Columbine. And Oklahoma City. But I have this distinctly unshakable feeling about the events in Boston. Maybe we need a direct connection to an event to feel it mostly deeply. Because for me, there is something about knowing that I was there, on the very same ground where the bombings took place, that has me badly rattled.
My friend Lynn raced Boston yesterday and is blessedly safe. She crossed the finish line mere minutes before the bombs.
Marathoning pushes people to the limits, and shows us all what we are capable of. I’m heartbroken that the bombings also showed us what some other people are capable of, in the worst imaginable way.
If you’re familiar with our work here at Mom Ink, you’ll know that we’re mad about customer service. We are firmly of the belief that delivering outstanding customer service is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.
It was therefore with mixed feelings that I read about Jen Agg’s method for dealing with difficult customers. When Agg got frustrated one recent Saturday night at her restaurant, the owner of The Black Hoof took to Twitter with the following words:
Dear (almost) everyone in here right now. Please, please stop being such a douche.
This wasn’t the first time Agg has used Twitter to vent her anger toward her customers. You can check out some of her other choice comments here.
Agg’s argument, and that of a growing number of other restaurateurs, is that people can be publicly rude to servers, but servers have no right to be publicly frustrated with that behaviour.
While I can understand Agg’s frustration, I don’t agree with her method of dealing with it. Believe me, as a small business owner, I appreciate that customers can be unreasonable, and sometimes even rude. But here’s the thing: I chose to go into business for myself. I chose to make a product and put it out there. I put myself in a position where sometimes people are going to express their dissatisfaction.
At Admiral Road, we’ve taken a path that’s 180-degrees opposite from Agg. Our mantra is simple: The customer is always right. Truly, what is the point in trying to argue it differently, regardless of whether the customer is actually right or not? What is the upside to getting into it with a customer who has chosen to be rude, unreasonable or dissatisfied?
In our experience, killing with kindness works every time. More significantly, from a business perspective, it simply takes the potential to argue off the table.
We think Agg could consider taking the arguing off the table at The Black Hoof too.