Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Buying Customer Service....

When they saw the letter from Boston Magazine earlier this month, Elias and Caroline Mavroidis thought they had arrived.

Completely without warning, their family business, South End Cleaners and Tailors, had won a "Best of Boston" prize as the best neighborhood dry cleaners. The letter came with a certificate and an invitation to a fancy party to mingle with the rest of Boston's finest.

The next news to arrive wasn't nearly as gratifying. Their landlord stopped by to tell them that he was increasing their rent from $2,900 a month to $5,000. If they chose not to pay, they had to vacate the Tremont Street property by Oct. 1.

That's wasn't all the bad news. The landlord, Wayne Doherty, also told them that he planned to open his own dry cleaners at the same location once they departed.

A similar situation happened to Sam Walton after he opened his first Ben Franklin store. The landlord saw how much money his property could generate and he wanted in on the action. Of course, nobody knows the name of that landlord today. And my guess is that nobody will know the name of this landlord either.

Customer service can't be transferred. Customer service can't be bought. Customer service can only occur when your passion meets your work. Without the passion, it's just fake. And fake never lasts.

If the landlord were smart, he would have done everything in his power to retain this customer. Because this customer was successful. And if your job is to rent business space, then you better hope that all of your businesses are successful. Because if they're not, then you're out of a renter.

Of course, this landlord doesn't have the same kind of passion for his leasing business as his renter does for his dry cleaning business. Hopefully, we'll get a follow up a few months from now. My guess is that the landlord wins this battle. But a better guess is that the dry cleaner wins the war.

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