Columbia’s best businesses make customer service top priority

Thursday, September 20, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:52 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009
David Rosman writes a weekly opinion column for the Missourian.

COLUMBIA — A student asked me why customer service was so bad in Columbia. His experience with restaurants, retail outlets and service departments had been, in a word, disappointing. Kathy and I had this discussion last week, how it seems that customer service in Columbia falls below expectations. However, great customer service in Columbia does exist.

You can learn good customer service by watching “Miracle on 34th Street.” The famed competition between Macy’s and Gimbels was fierce. Mr. Macy, with some help from Santa, decided that giving the customers what they need was the right thing to do, even if it meant sending them across Herald Square to the competitor. Their customers appreciated the help and remained loyal.

There are a few establishments Kathy and I will no longer visit because of poor service. However, if you look closely, there are some stellar examples of customer service waiting to be found.

Ten-year old Javon ventured into The District with his mother and 30,000 other “friends,” including Kathy and me, for the final night of the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ Festival. Years from now, he will remember the listening to the music of Taj Mahal while leaning against the pillar of our host’s building, Boone County National Bank. Javon may become a member of the bank’s family of customers and maybe not.

Our local bank celebrated its 150-year anniversary with the world, not by offering discounts and package deals, expecting us to spend more money. They threw a party, inviting everyone within earshot, giving back to the community. The bank understands that its success is based on its clients, past, present and future. The bank just wanted all of us to have fun, and I cannot think of a better way to be thanked.

It is rare that you will enter G&D Pizza-Steak, the steak house in the Crossroads Plaza, without being welcomed as a long-lost friend. The smiles are genuine, the handshakes are strong and the laughter is from the heart. If something should come from the kitchen below the customer’s satisfaction, they will go out of their way to fix the problem. No questions, no complaints. Great service.

Where do you go for pants at midnight in Columbia? Wal-Mart on West Broadway, and holding my intended purchase in hand, I asked an associate if I could try them on before I left the store. She had to call a manager to unlock the dressing rooms, which took all of three minutes. She apologized at least three times for the wait and then remained to be sure that I was satisfied with my selection. She cared and it showed.

Micki and Ramon, refugees from the Bronx and the owners of the New York Deli on Vandiver Drive, know great service, whether in their shop or catering your function. Ramon will see to your order with utmost care and Micki will “sit and twalk with ya for just a few” to make you feel at home. The two will become instant friends. Good food is one thing. Good friends are better.

From those in need of short-term rehabilitation to patients requiring long-term care, Columbia HealthCare is home. Some may call it a “nursing home,” but that is wrong. Yes, the facility has some strange smells and sounds, but watch the staff closely. Even the janitorial and maintenance people treat the patients like their own family. What more can you ask for when your loved one is in distress?

Add MC Sports, Perche Creek Golf, Katfish Katie’s Campgrounds in Huntsdale, Les Bourgeois Winery & Vineyards in Rocheport, Murry’s Restaurant and the guy who sells the cell phone accessories at the mall to the list with at least a dozen more.

It takes time to find the good. Longer to find the great. They are there, just around the corner. Their advertising is word of mouth.

Bad customer service is easy to find. Those names that could fill this column twice over, even without the stories. But that’s for another day.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at

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