Fortunately, treating customers well is part of the corporate culture of many companies. There are also businesses that are successful doing just the opposite.

Seeing how some restaurant owners in the mountains treat their customers has reminded me of my stay in Rome. The Italian waiters literally walked past you. They perfectly concealed that they had heard you.

Even if you stood up on the table screaming at the top of your lungs in the middle of the restaurant, they wouldn’t blink. Hopefully they attended to you when writing down your order and charging, although they would undoubtedly make you wait for a while so as not to get used to it.

“Mistreatment” of clients in the world of gastronomy

It seems strange that in the world of gastronomy this can happen but in certain contexts it is possible. Imagine that you have been climbing a mountain for 3 or 4 years and have overcome 500 meters of difference in level. You arrive hungry at the only restaurant in the mountains that is close to you. They are simply situated in such a way that there is no competition. It doesn’t matter how well or badly they treat their customers. The bad reviews on Tripadvisor do not matter too much either. The lack of alternatives will mean that your business will be able to function for a long time despite lousy customer service.

The same applies to bars and restaurants near central points in Rome (and other tourist cities around the world). There is simply so much traffic of people who pass by their side every day that they do not give a damn about the bad reviews that you can find on the web from angry customers because they have been charged about 10 euros for a coffee and even making a face of being annoyed for making them to work.

Types of business that do not require good customer service

We can summarize two factors that allow businesses to be successful for a long time by treating their customers as a hindrance:

  • Monopolies and oligopolies: when there are no alternatives you put up with it. A couple of years ago if you wanted a landline you just had one option. There were no alternatives. With the passage of time, more and more monopolies are falling and there are more and more hungry customers to receive their well-deserved revenge. Many will survive by simple inertia. There are also clients that you can treat badly but simply because they are lazy to look for a new provider they stay with the company forever.
  • Demand much higher than supply: as long as there are many potential customers and you do not have infinite capacities to serve them (restaurants are limited by their places of months and seats), you can afford to treat those who visit you badly. You know that at all times you will have your business full. Especially in tourist centers there is not much repetition, so even a good treatment will not generate the effect of loyalty. Word of mouth is not necessary for the reasons mentioned above.

Treating your customer badly is obviously a short-term view for several reasons. The most important is that you will rarely be able to expand the business. You don’t notice any negative impact for a while because you only have limited abilities. Regardless of what you do, you always have a full house.

The context can change and suddenly you can find competition where there was none before. When there are alternatives you can stay overnight without customers.

Obviously the gastronomic world is not well represented with the extreme examples mentioned in this post. The vast majority of them treat their clients well either out of necessity or out of passion for their profession. Few businesses can afford not to serve their customers perfectly, and even fewer can act that way forever.

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