Keep the customer happy

In our imperfect social and business environment we frequently find that companies say one thing and make ambitious promises – especially when it comes to good service – but seldom, if ever, deliver on those promises.

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What is the situation with fresh produce markets, which are forever telling us how service is so important and how they look after their customers? Does this happen in reality? As always there are a few exceptions. But, generally, you’ll find that, at certain levels in a market’s hierarchy, people are willing, mostly able and helpful. At another level, though, the staff operates as if they’ve never heard of that very important ‘creature’ called a ‘customer’.

The concept of ‘customer relations’ and its implementation is virtually non-existent. Working in a municipal structure seems to ensure a mindset devoid of anything to do with a ‘what can I do for my customer?’ attitude among many market staff. In public forums, market managers speak passionately about the need for good customer service – and how they need to attract more producers to support markets.

The reality is, producers who don’t receive decent service from a market will simply stay away. I know of one large farming operation which doesn’t support a certain market because of lousy service, mismanagement and other unprofessional behaviour.
As for the market agent who sells on behalf of the farmer – if their service isn’t up to standard the producer will change agencies. The vast majority of market agents see to it that their service levels retain their customers, but there’s always the odd one that makes a hash of it.

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Start with themselves
If market managers – and market agency managers – want to draw producers to their markets, they need to start with themselves and their senior colleagues. I’ll save the list of what should be done for another issue. The point I want to make for now is that the leaders need to get their collective act together and set an example before they can expect their underlings to do anything. Will they ever do it? If they can navigate through a sea of endless meetings and other frequently useless activities and re-focus themselves, they might just get it right.

Contact Mike Cordes at [email protected]. Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.