Summer officially started last weekend! Schools will soon be closed, trips are being planned, cars are being rented, hotels are being booked, reservations are being made at restaurants, grills are being fired up, air conditioners are blasting, lawn mowers are running, and contractors are being sought after for repairs, renovations and new constructions. Yes, everyone is gearing up to make the most of these few months of warmth and sun-filled days!

Last year, over $16 billion were spent just to have fun during the summer in the US. In fact, the average cost of summer fun per child is more than $600. Moreover, families with incomes of over $100,000 will spend, on average, more than $1,100 each this summer.

As the business community begins to buzz with renewed vigor, it is important to revisit the importance of good customer service. Why? Have you ever been to an airport, hotel, restaurant or car rental agency where you were mistreated, or had an experience so ruined that it upset a family vacation that you had planned for months?

Customers remember their experiences, and share their stories with others. How you treat your customers – every one of them – is crucial to your long-term success.

Just earlier this month, in a span of one week, three displeased customers, who were on the receiving end of bad service right here in the Mid-Hudson Valley, shared their stories.

1)    Lawn Mower Repair: The first person, John, took his damaged lawn mower to a local repair business. It was the first lawn mower that he had owned, and he was unsure of how to proceed and what to expect from the repair shop.

The first repair shop he visited, an established business, treated him in a dismissive manner, offered no advice on what could be wrong with the lawn mower, and what his options were even after John’s comprehensive explanation of the problem. John said, “The customer service representative was more concerned about eating her muffin at the counter than helping me. She said that she could not answer any of my questions, told me their hourly rates, and waited on me to decide on whether I wanted to have it fixed or trashed. How could I make such a decision without a proper discussion about the problem?”

John left feeling dissatisfied and irritated by the service he received.

The business owner of the second repair shop that John visited, a much smaller business that was tucked away on a side road, took the time to answer all of John’s questions, offer options to him, and even had him test drive a new mower.

John said, “I felt like this owner cared about my problem with my lawn mower, and was willing to take the time to show me that my business was important to him. I felt like I could trust him. When we realized that the problem was a serious one that would cost a considerable amount of money to fix, I actually ended up buying a new lawn mower from him. From my discussion with him, I knew what my options were beforehand, and knew how much money I was prepared to spend to either fix the mower or to purchase a new one. I will certainly use his services in the future, and will recommend him to all my friends.”

The amount of revenue lost by the hungry customer representative: $600

2)    Construction Contractor: The second person, Nellie, was interviewing contractors to perform considerable renovations on her home. From other estimates that she received, she was aware that the work would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Nellie said, “I invited this particular contractor to come to my home to discuss the scope of the work that I wanted done. He sounded eager to get the job during our conversation, but he missed the pre-arranged meeting time, and didn’t even call me to apologize. I called him the next day. He didn’t apologize, but simply said that he was unable to find my house. I live on a well-traveled, easy-to-find street, and he knew my telephone number.”

Nellie concluded, “I am always nervous about hiring contractors. I don’t trust what he said to me about not being able to find my home. He could have called me for directions. His actions have placed doubts in my mind about his reliability as a worker as well. I will not be hiring him, or calling him in the future.”

The amount of revenue lost by the confused contractor: $75,000

3)    Restaurant Service: Marcia and her husband were used to going to their favorite local restaurant at least twice each month. They would bring clients and friends to this restaurant, as well as recommend it to all their friends and colleagues. The waiters and managers knew them well, and they felt like valued customers there.

Suddenly, one day, they went in and the waiters and the manager were people they had never seen before. The service provided by the new staff was unfriendly, the sizes of the food portions were smaller, and, at the end of the meal, the price on their bill was higher than what was stated on the menu.

When Marcia questioned the bill, the new manager replied, in an unfriendly tone, “That was the old price you are referring to. This is the new price, but we forgot to change it on the menu.”

Marcia said, “We’ve been coming to this restaurant for many years, and always felt so welcomed here. We learnt that the same owners opened a new restaurant in the area, but the service here has deteriorated. Our waitress was taking away our plates, cleaning our table and handing us our bill before we had even finished our meal. It was quite impolite. My husband and I felt very uncomfortable at a place that always felt like a home to us. We’re not sure we’ll return, especially with our clients, unless we hear that they have improved their service and standards.”

The amount of revenue lost by the impatient waitress and unfriendly manager: $300

Yes, how you treat your customers is vital to nurturing return business, more business, new business, and your overall business growth and success. Customers may not remember what they dined on, drove, or bought at your place of business, but they will remember how you made them feel. And they will share their experiences with their families, friends and colleagues.

Is training your workers to respond to questions by customers, and reminding them of the importance of kindness, a smile and delivering excellent service to every one of your customers a priority for your business? Can you risk sending your customers to your competitors? What will be the cost of the service you provide to your customers this summer?

Well, I’ll let your balance sheet answer that question for you.