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MAKING THE GRADE

The benefits of customer service

As the head academic administrator for an American style business school, I am always interested in how superior customer service provides lasting competitive advantages. Recently I experienced an impressively high level of customer service in a new store right here in Bratislava.
I was searching for a new pair of glasses and a colleague recommended that I try a shop, Optiland, which recently opened on Obchodná 4 (near the Hotel Forum). Since my friend's new glasses were attractive and reasonably priced, I decided to follow his recommendation and visit the shop.

As the head academic administrator for an American style business school, I am always interested in how superior customer service provides lasting competitive advantages. Recently I experienced an impressively high level of customer service in a new store right here in Bratislava.

I was searching for a new pair of glasses and a colleague recommended that I try a shop, Optiland, which recently opened on Obchodná 4 (near the Hotel Forum). Since my friend's new glasses were attractive and reasonably priced, I decided to follow his recommendation and visit the shop.

Customers like selection, and once inside the door of Optiland I knew my visit was going to be a positive experience. I am not a retailing expert, but the store is attractive with lots of room for browsing the hundreds of frames. Within a few minutes the owner of the shop came over to introduce himself and welcome me to his shop. Well, I don't know about the experiences of my readers, but this has never happened to me before in Slovakia!

I mentioned to the owner that I am a high maintenance customer and usually try on at least one hundred frames before making a choice. This got him laughing, and he quickly assigned a pleasant sales associate. She helped me make a selection, then took me to a staging area where I sat down and was offered coffee. I asked if I could return the next day and pick up the glasses - but was told they would be ready in one hour. By this time I thought I was in a dream, but they were ready in one hour (and the shop even accepted credit cards).

I have not written about Optiland as a service to them; indeed, the store is unaware of this article. Rather, I share this experience with other managers to illustrate how important seeing things from the customer's perspective really is, and how this approach can differentiate providers of similar goods and services in the minds of customers.

On a separate note, you may know that the First Annual Internship Fair, sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce, has been postponed from the original date earlier this month. The new date is Thursday, April 13 at the Hotel Danube. The doors open at 11:00 to students interested in internships. The new date will allow more companies to participate. Approximately 20 local, regional, national, and international firms are expected at this event. For more information please contact Ms. Zuzana Istoková, Event Co-Coordinator via e-mail: zistokova@yahoo.com.

Keith C. 'Carlos' Gutiérrez is Dean of City University in Bratislava. Readers may send their responses and questions to carlosg@cutn.sk

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