Jodi Wallace

Monarch Solid Surface Designs

Each customer deserves the time they need to have all their questions answered thoroughly.

Customers have long memories. Treat everyone as if they were the most  important customer of the day – because they are.

Customers have long memories. Treat everyone as if they were the most important customer of the day – because they are.

After spending two weeks in South Carolina with the American Red Cross evaluating the damage left by Hurricane Matthew, I am finally back home and trying to re-acclimate myself with running a stone shop. It was a long two weeks for my sister-in-law and husband who were watching over things in my absence, but without their support I wouldn’t be able to deploy with the Red Cross. (See archives, 

I actually wondered if I had anything worthwhile to contribute to the SRG, having been in an entirely different world for several weeks. I was talking with a friend yesterday about my experience in South Carolina and working with our clients, (our name for those affected by a disaster.)  It dawned on me that many of the principle rules that are important to me on deployments are also the principle rules I follow for my business. I thought I would share my most important ones.

Be Nice

Such a simple phrase, but something we very much take for granted. I am surprised at the number of times potential customers have told me that people at showrooms they had visited prior to ours were rude, condescending, acted as if their being there was an inconvenience, (salespeople who cannot do the courtesy of putting down their phone), or just blatantly ignored them. Sometimes we all forgot that the most important thing about a business is that without our customers, there is no business. 

 Be Friendly

A smile is the start of something good. In most cases, it’s contagious. Even if I’m having one of “those days,” I try to always greet everyone with a smile on my face. A new customer stepping into my showroom can only judge me by what they first see, and as they say, “You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so make it good.” I’ve also found that even if I don’t feel like smiling, once I start talking to a customer the other “stuff” fades to the background, if just for a few minutes, and my mood can lighten considerably. Many times we have had customers tell us that although our price may have been higher than a competitor’s, they choose us because they really “just liked us.” Never underestimate the power of being friendly, but make sure it’s also genuine.  

Don’t Take It Personally

In the last six months we seem to be assisting on a larger than usual number of remodels resulting from flooding. Broken and leaking pipes, overflowing bathtubs and clogs in pipes have brought in many customers who never planned on doing a remodel this year. It’s hard to be excited about something that wasn’t planned for, and many customers literally drag themselves (or their spouses) in the door, so occasionally people will be grumpy. Dealing with insurance companies, deductibles, flooring, cabinets, and countertop choices…. so many unanticipated items (and costs) to be decided on in such a short time.  Keep your perspective — it isn’t us they are upset at, we just happen to be there. Be patient and understanding and give people the benefit of the doubt. Remember you have the opportunity to help someone through a difficult process, and you can make a difference in an otherwise bad situation.

Make Everyone Feel Important

In our very digitized world nowadays we sometimes forgot that interacting with people adds something to not just their lives but to ours as well. With so many companies and services available nowadays people don’t have the need for loyalty to businesses. But I know that when I am in my “consumer mode” I pay attention to the way I am treated. Would I go back again? Would I recommend the business to someone? How you treat people is just as relative now as it was in past years. Treat everyone as if they were the most important customer of the day – because customers have long memories.

Don’t Stereotype People  

I always remember a story my dad told me. When I was little girl, my mom had a charm bracelet she loved, and my dad liked to buy her new charms when he had a little extra money. One weekend he and his best friend spent all weekend disassembling and recycling metal. By the time they walked into the jewelry store later that afternoon they both needed showers and clean clothes, but my dad had a pocketful of money and was ready to spend it. Unfortunately, when the salespeople looked at them they only saw a couple of guys in dirty clothes slowly walking around the jewelry store, and they rudely asked them to leave. 

As Julie Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman so famously told the tactless sales women in the upscale boutique, who refused to help her, “Biiig mistake!” Never make assumptions about people – you may end up being very surprised at just how wrong you are. 

Take The Time 

 No matter how crazy the showroom gets when I am here alone, I always remind myself that each customer deserves the time they need to have all their questions answered thoroughly. I can easily handle two couples at a time, but sometimes (especially on Saturdays if I am by myself) I end up with four or five couples in the showroom all looking for help, and I admit it can be stressful. But I greet everyone who walks in the doors with a “Good morning (or afternoon), please make yourself at home and I will be with you as soon as I am able.” I make sure to acknowledge them, and also let them know that when I am working with them they will have the same time and attention as I am spending with the customer whom I am currently helping. 

Most people are understanding and choose to wait for me, but occasionally people get huffy and storm out, which is fine. I realized a long time ago that people are willing to wait when they feel a business places their satisfaction as a top priority.

Although my deployments with the American Red Cross and running my business seem vastly different from each other, when it comes down to it, I realized they really aren’t all that different. I am still working with and interacting with people. Respect, a friendly smile and a little patience still hold the same meaning whether I am trying to help someone cope with the loss of their home, or assisting someone picking out new kitchen countertops.  Up until yesterday I honestly never gave thought to the fact that no matter what, I am still providing customer care to people in need.

Jodi Wallace is the owner of Monarch Solid Surface Designs in San Jose, California. She volunteers as a Disaster Responder for the American Red Cross.