March 2011
Home Grown Tomatoes

Customer Service – Good or Bad

You’ve heard me say it many times before. "Customer service is the number one product sold in the United States." As far as I’m concerned, I am only sold "bad" customer service once and then I go shopping for someone who wants my business badly enough to provide "good" customer service.

The thing is that the bad kind and the good kind of customer service generally takes the same amount of effort. Sometimes, providing good customer service takes less effort, especially in the long run.

Recently, I spoke with neighbors here around the Tomato Tower about purchasing some fruit trees so we could share our crops with each other. Several of us agreed we would start with a variety of apple trees and it would be up to me to find some healthy trees on good root stock at a reasonable price.


The difference between good and bad customer is like comparing apples to oranges.

I’m no pomology expert, so I phoned who I had always thought of as the authority on apple trees only to get an employee who said she could probably answer my question. I got information on size, variety and price, but I needed to know, if used in an espalier situation against the façade of a house, would the root system interfere with the home’s foundation. She couldn’t answer that question, so she got all of my contact information and promised to have the person I had originally asked for to call me. I never got that call. Little does that company know, but they lost a sizeable sale to a local big box store where we expect limited knowledge from their employees.

I asked around about the espalier issue and the foundation. Several horticulture professors and a structural engineer offered reasons for not planting the trees any closer than four feet from the foundation of a home, but offered suggestions on what to do.

After examining the apple trees at the local big box, finding the name of the actual grower of the trees, asking around the industry about the reputation of the grower and deciding how many we wanted to plant this year, we made the tree purchases.

With a simple return of a phone call, the original company could have made one sale – one big sale, because I know they knew the answer to my question and probably could have given it in less than two minutes. See how it works?

Here’s some friendly advice for all employees of all companies:
• Always listen to your customers.
• Always be friendly and professional.
• Never grade a customer on how much money they may spend.
• Never give advice unless it is accurate.
• Never recommend a product or service unless it is the best for the money.
• Always perform what you propose.

• Always return phone calls and e-mail messages.

Enjoy the Spring!

Watch out for some exciting changes to Home Grown Tomatoes this spring and listen for the Home Grown Tomatoes Garden Minute on your local radio stations.

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