Where Customer Service Has Gone to the Dogs

Brilliant Books Dog Bowls

Where Customer Service Has Gone to the Dogs – Al Getler

Traverse City, Michigan is just about one of the prettiest lakeside cities I have encountered. It has wonderful water views, a bustling and interesting main street (Front Street) and wonderful places to eat.

A drive out on The Old Mission Peninsula seems to transport you to Northern California. With rolling hills, wineries and spectacular water views, your mind fools you as you mistake Lake Michigan for the Pacific.

The More I Like My Dog

Without being able to place exactly when I first saw it, a bumper sticker that stated, “The more I meet people, the more I like my dog” has always amused me (some days more than others). And while I certainly liked the people who I met in Traverse City this week, especially the locals, I really liked their dogs.


It was likely dog envy as I was on an extended visit without my family, which includes our three dogs.

It may have been the fact that I have rarely been without at least one dog in my life since childhood.

It definitely had something to do with the fact that everywhere I turned there were dogs in Traverse City.

Dogs are important in Traverse City. They are very important. And that is why I like the dogs. I liked the dogs because the Traversians (someone please look that reference to Traverse City residents up and get back to me) LOVED their dogs and I in turn love the Traversinions (I am begging you to research what to call the inhabitants.)

Lest I lose the customer service lesson in my dog drooling admiration for K-9’s, here goes…

Acknowledge Your Customers’ Likes

If your customers like something, it probably makes sense that you cater to that liking. Let’s consider your customers’ children for example. You might not like their kids, but I bet they are pretty fond of them.

When we go to our favorite breakfast and lunch spot, Maddies, there is a table set up in the waiting area with coloring books and crayons.

Since Maddies is such a great place and weekend waits can be upwards of half an hour, the coloring table is a great service to the customers. It reduces the impatience and whining that comes with the wait which is why my wife sits me at the table. If I stay between the lines as I color, I get the occasional Cherrio placed in my mouth. It makes the other kids jealous.

Okay seriously, I prefer Honey Nut Cherrios more than plain. I didn’t know how to tell my wife without hurting her feelings. Thank goodness for this blog.

No really, I don’t actually sit at the table. See the top of the page where is says “Laughing and Learning”. That was the laughing part. I bet your sides hurt.

A Revelation in Traverse City

At some point in Traverse City, some shop owner picked up on the fact that people loved to bring their dogs on strolls as they shopped along Front Street. This astute merchant put two and two together and got four…legs.

You can almost imagine this owner, after observing the people and their thirsty hounds, placing a community water bowl on the ground out in front of their shop. Other business owners picked up on it and now the bowls line the sidewalk on both sides of the street.

One shop, Brilliant Books, has gone so far as to assure comfort based on size and provides appropriate dog reading material (see picture).

Now, If there are any dog curmudgeons out there, allow me to read your mind and tell you that I did not see one obvious sign that there were irresponsible dog owners in this downtown. Not a pile to be seen.

The dog formula in this Great Lakes city makes it a special place for dog enthusiasts. Look how welcome the people (and their dogs) feel with this small effort by the downtown shop owners.

Apply this lesson to your business. Observe your customers. Add something simple to your customer experience that is meaningful.

As this example shows, it doesn’t take much to like what your customers like. With some thought you too can be like the Traverlerites (is there a Michigonian in the house to provide clarity on this term?)

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Al Getler is a newspaper, website, book and magazine publisher. He is also a comedian/ventriloquist and a speaker on leadership, customer service and personal branding.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.