Take Another Little Piece of My Heart, Now, Baby or How Being a Business Owner Made Me a Better Customer

by Stephanie G. Travis

I can never look at another business or business owner the same. Not after owning and being one. And the paradox is that I’m more understanding and empathetic while more incredulous and critical at the same time.

More often, I’m understanding and empathetic. Especially when my experience as a customer is not as great as I had hoped. When I’m unsatisfied and disappointed, I look around the store and almost always see how the owner has given me a piece of her heart.

Original oil painting by Pappi, 2008. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

He gave me a piece of his heart last Saturday when, while spending time with his children, his attention trailed off as he thought about how to make my experience better. She gave me a piece of her heart when she missed dinner with her husband and children to do what needed to be done for the business that supported them. He gave me a piece of his heart when he didn’t visit his father in the hospital as much as he thought he should. She thinks of me more than I think of her.

I now understand my experience as a customer is much more than one transaction. It’s everything that led up to that transaction. It’s about what it took to get the paint on the walls, the air conditioning fixed and the garbage cans emptied. It’s about the years and money she spent to learn her trade. It’s about him swallowing his pride and when he asked his vendor for a little more time to pay. It’s about the prayers she said last night.

So next time you get pissed off and indignant because your experience as a customer was less than what you thought you deserved, look into his eyes. I guarantee you will see the same dreams, hopes, exhaustion, fears and excitement that you experience. I guarantee you’ll remember the mistakes you made in delivering your product and service. And how sick to your stomach you were when it happened.

Most of all, I hope you use the moment to offer support and encouragement to her. He expects you to use him as a punching bag. That’s what most customers do. Don’t be most customers, because you aren’t.