Your customers aren’t lost… are they?

30Mar09

If you’re in the retail business, how do you normally greet new faces that just entered your store?

A few friends and I recently made plans to go for a tasting at Sake Nomi on a Saturday evening. It is a small sake shop in Seattle that we had been looking forward to visiting. As soon as I walked through the door, the man working behind the tasting bar asked: “Are you lost?” He did not introduce himself or offer any information. After 20 minutes, no hint of customer service was detected, so we left.

From Sake Nomi’s web site:

Saké Nomi is a place to learn about and explore premium Japanese saké, and its brewing culture and traditions, in a convivial, welcoming environment.

The man behind the tasting bar was the store owner, Johnnie Stroud. My experience is now the 17th review of his store on Yelp. My Yelp reviews are automatically shown on my Facebook wall. The very next day, Johnnie sent a message to my inbox on Facebook, titled “Apologies from Sake Nomi.” I wonder why he did not respond via Yelp.

In his message to me, Johnnie explained that he gets a lot of people coming into his store looking for sushi. It seems Johnnie finds this to be an inconvenience. Most companies spend a large sum on marketing just to drive traffic into their stores! There is no excuse to not capture the business opportunity brought by those who are already IN the store.

Hospitality. Over the top hospitality. It is especially important for a business such as Sake Nomi that involves a unique beverage with so much culture behind it. Even if someone enters the store by mistake, it could be turned into an opportunity: “Hey, glad you wandered in! I just opened this great new sake. Here, have a sip, let me know what you think. I’ll go get the info on my favorite sushi restaurant in Seattle for you.

To Sake Nomi, I was one of those potential customers that marketing departments dream of and plot for. I sought out its location. I brought friends with me. I’m active on various social networks. I don’t shy away from spending money on food, drinks and experiences. Unfortunately, Johnnie figured I was lost. As it turned out, he was correct. I’m a customer he lost.

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7 Responses to “Your customers aren’t lost… are they?”

  1. Amazing. One might assume that given the economic state of our country that Johnie would welcome you to his restaurant. It really does come to the experience. When I’m treated poorly, like you, I’ll blog about it. I’ll Twitter about it and I’ll tell every friend and coworker. But the same goes for good service. I’m glad you walked out. He doesn’t deserve your business.

  2. i find it odd that most of the feedback i’ve heard about sake nomi have been pretty negative (ok, downright negative) and yet, the majority yelp reviews are three stars and above. hmmm… i wonder if people are ‘won over’ by his apologies and delete their not-so-favorable reviews… if so, that’s dead wrong! there is a reason why people update their reviews… kudos for keeping yours up there! 🙂

  3. What a disappointing experience! Guess I’ll avoid that sake when I get my occasional sake urge. Makes me wonder if the other 16 reviews on Yelp are genuine or not…

    Thanks for writing up an honest review of this place!

  4. That is a business that is sure to be gone soon. So many great concepts out there but to few owners that know what to do with them.

  5. “Even if someone enters the store by mistake, it could be turned into an opportunity: “Hey, glad you wandered in! I just opened this great new sake. Here, have a sip, let me know what you think. I’ll go get the info on my favorite sushi restaurant in Seattle for you.”

    No doubt, especially given that a sake drinker might probably be a sushi eater!

    Most retail stores have to deal with lookie-loos: too rare is the one that will follow your good advice.

    And it’s no wonder website owners have rarely prepared for the “lost” accidental site viewer….


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