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In business we often think of “service” as the interaction between the customer and a retailer during a sales transaction, and today most businesses approach it just that way.

But, in truth, service is everything else but. In a time of changing customer habits, there is no better time than now to get our heads around the true understanding of service and to bring it back into vogue.

1) Service – You can’t give what you don’t understand

Most readers of this column know by now I am absolutely impassioned about a few things: music, people, conversation, and quality. I live to kindle passion and awaken curiosity with every interaction I have. I am unapologetically “old school,” and I take full advantage of that with our customers.

Enter Mr. Jones, an adult guitar student, aged 74 and retired after working in a high-profile government job. He has returned to enjoy his passion for music after putting it off for thirty years. The other day he stopped me in the lobby and struck up a conversation.

His probing question began our conversation.

MJ: You a honcho around here?

Me: Some may be under the impression that I’m a honcho.

MJ: You the head honcho?

Me: According to the paperwork filed with the state, yes, sir I am, (I then add with a smile) which makes me the last in line to get a bonus and the first called when something breaks.

Mr. Jones continues with his inquisitive questions asking if I knew his teacher. This is the gateway question and a chance for me to share that both my daughter and I have studied with “Mr. Mike,” his teacher. As we talk, Mr. Jones begins to gush about the bright, young employees behind the counter. He seems entertained by how efficient this younger generation is with gadgets. We proceed to walk and talk, and I invite him to come downstairs with me to see a playground I built. I know he will understand it and appreciate the efforts that went into designing and building our listening room. I take him into the stage area, and I ask him if he likes to sing with friends. We talk about our bluegrass jam and begin to discuss great classic folk and bluegrass artists.

The takeaway here is Mr. Jones sought me out to say thank you. He knew who I was, and he wanted to let me know that our customers are smart enough to pick up on the subtleties that we strive every day to get right. He appreciates old, crusty dudes like his fabulous teacher, and the sharp, young talent he sees in our staff, and he is keen to witness that we work extra hard to make sure the details of his experience are as they should be. He appreciates the quality of our commitment to “service.”

2) Let’s take service on the road and have some fun

When you buy a drum set from my stores, it presents me with a unique opportunity. I have a special chance to share a few hours with the family who just purchased the kit because I deliver and assemble it, personally. It’s my opportunity to provide a service few other stores in our region can. Yes, Internet big boxes will ship it for free, but I don’t ship it – I personally bring it. And you, the customer, don’t assemble it; we do that together. I discuss every part of the instrument and its functions, and while we have fun with this, we talk the whole time. We talk about music, learning, creative thinking, and the benefits of music education. The customer learns about my work with the NAMM Fly-ins. They learn my father was a professional musician, and, of course, they ask about music colleges and the like. They get an inside understanding about my role in the music industry, and I get to help the drummer get the kit set up exactly as he wants and needs it to be. That is service.

3) Sometimes service is initiating and building bridges

I call him Mr. Case.

He is a first chair, all-district, and jazz band kind of guy. I liked him the first time we met because he is a dedicated, hard worker, and unquestionably a leader. The day we met he was walking out of the lesson room. His trumpet was slung like a weapon off his right shoulder in a funky, high-end case with a round end for the bell of the horn. I knew I had one shot and as I greeted him, I thought about the hotel doorman Lamar in the movie “That Thing You Do.”

“What’s up Mr. Case? – I see you don’t need a cool guy case ‘cuz you’re slingin’ one off your shoulder; love that case, ‘cuz it’s extra funky.” He looked up and smiled. He realized I had dialed him in quickly, and he liked the tease. It was our gateway moment, and now we speak every week when he comes in because he trusts me. This kid represents the best in the county, and he loves telling people about the fun vibe at our store – because now we talk jazz, icons, music schools, and such.

4) Great service isn’t an action, it’s a philosophy

You don’t give it, you embody it. Great service is sharing a gift meant to be given. No different than courtesy or a smile, service is “a way of being” – one that’s coming back into style… or maybe one that should have never left!

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column.

 



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