Listen to the Silence  
B y L y l e R . H i l l  
s much as it hurts to admit,I am,  
... many businesses that regularly lose  
habit,a rut dweller,“Mr.Vanilla.” customers because of poor service are the first  
to tell you that they pride themselves on their  
reputations for customer satisfaction. After all,  
they hardly ever receive a complaint.  
like most of you,a true creature of  
So it was that day after day,week after  
week, my morning routine hardly ever  
I would pull up to the speaker box at  
a local fast food drive-thru restaurant,  
expecting to hear a pleasant “good  
morning.”Instead, a semi-agitated and ture of habit that I am,it’s now been nearly tions for customer satisfaction.After all,  
often surly voice would boom a cursory, three years of constant patronage to the they hardly ever receive a complaint.  
May I take your order?” from the box. newer, better supplier of the goods and  
Yes, a medium coffee with one services I desired all the while. Herein is certainly believe it is, how do you avoid  
cream,” I dutifully would answer each perhaps a lesson for us all. it? How can you hear what isn’t being  
So, if this is a real life situation, and I  
morning,knowing full well that the fun  
was about to begin.  
Companies become rut dwellers, too. said.Very simple ...ask.Become proac-  
They feel they can live on their reputation tive instead of reactive. Customer re-  
Yousee,whatIhadorderedhadlittlere- or their low prices or convenience factors. sponse cards or, even better, customer  
lationship to what I would receive. Some Few,if any,of the customers they lose will post-service calls or emails are a good  
morningsIreceivedalargecoffeewithfive ever call or write or stop by in person to place to start. You might also want to  
or six creamers.Sometimes it was a small say why they’re leaving to go to a com- ask whether or not yours is a repeat  
coffee with one sugar. Often, my simple petitor. Most often, they will be nice, de- customer. Who did his last job? What  
order took forever to fill because of com- cent people who no longer feel that brought him to you in the first place?  
plications with the car ahead of me. For they’re being treated properly. They just Would he come back? Will he recom-  
any number of reasons, my simple order won’t feel that their business means any- mend you to a friend or relative?  
was mis-filled at least 50 percent of the thing one way or the other.  
Whatever it takes, talk to your cus-  
time!And the service was neither friendly Most won’t complain because they re- tomers. Find out what they really think  
nor efficient.Also, the length of my wait ally don’t want to make a scene.They,like of you. And always remember, if you  
seemed to be inversely proportionate to most of us,already have enough conflicts don’t ask, you’ll probably never hear or  
the size of my order. Often, the simple in their lives. They’re the nice, compliant, know, and even worse, you may never  
order took eight to ten minutes.  
Rut dwellers do not make changes lousy service once,maybe even twice,but  
soft-spoken customer.They’ll put up with see them again.  
Editor’s note: This column was origi-  
easily,so I kept going back.After all,the they won’t complain because they feel it nally published in the August 1993 issue of  
place was on my way; it had the cheap- wouldn’t do them any good anyway.They USGlass. s  
est coffee in town, and I didn’t have to also know they won’t receive poor  
inconvenience myself by getting out of service from you again because they  
the car.But even rut dwellers eventually know they’re not coming back  
recognize false economies.After several again—no matter how convenient  
months of the ridiculously inefficient or inexpensive you are!  
L y l e R . H i l l is the managing  
director of Keytech North America,  
a company providing research and  
service, I finally stopped going back.  
What’s perhaps most surprising  
technical services for the glass and  
metal industry. Hill has more than  
Ultimately,I found a friendlier,more ef- of all is the fact that many busi-  
ficient supplier for my morning coffee. nesses that regularly lose cus-  
The new place was a little more expensive, tomers because of poor service  
and I had to get out of my car to go inside are the first to tell you that they  
to get the order filled.And being the crea- pride themselves on their reputa-  
40 years experience in the glass  
and metal industry and can be reached at You can read his blog every  
other Monday at  
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | April 2016