This week I am writing about bowling. Not so much the 7-10 split or how many beers translate into the best score — although I would guess more than 3 and less than 6 — but I am writing about the customer service I received from a local bowling alley that turned me from a disgruntled customer to a loyal one. I believe it is customer service advice that you can use.

To make a short story long, I bought a Groupon for some family bowling. After being turned away on two occasions because there were no lanes open — in fairness I did not call, but who thinks bowling alleys are going to be so crowded? — I noticed the Groupon was about to expire. So, after checking out the alley’s website and getting its answering machine twice, all signs pointed to open bowling on this Tuesday night.

I went home and used bowling as motivation to get my 5- and 3-year-olds to eat their green beans. Of course, when we showed up to the alley we were told there was no open bowling due to it being teen night. When I informed the lady — politely — about the answering machine message and the website, she could not have been more disinterested. She had a scowl, did not apologize, and her eyes were telling me to leave the line so she could check in the Justin Bieber fans behind me. At this point I might have raised my voice a bit, but it is important to point out that my temper is not the one on trial here.


First lesson for you and your business — make sure your website is up-to-date. There is nothing more frustrating to a consumer than reading something on the website and being told it was wrong or out-of-date. In today’s world, people get your information online and that info should be accurate.

The most important lesson, however, was how the owner responded to my complaints. Now I had calmed down shortly after the teen-night incident, once I was able to do a bait-and-switch with my kids that involved a Dairy Queen sundae. However, the next morning I did go online to make sure I had seen the correct information. It was there that I saw the feedback tab. Given that I cover a lot of small businesses for a living, I thought it would be a courtesy to give them some feedback so they could improve their processes. I did not feel the need to do this publicly on their Facebook page because I truly was not looking for anything — was just giving feedback.

I got an email from the owner that day. I was surprised by the quickness and also the fact that the tab on their website worked… I kid! The owner wrote me a nice note that could possibly be a template for how you respond to legitimate complaints. Notice, I said legitimate.

He thanked me for writing because he “can’t be everywhere all the time” and notes like this help.

He said it was the bowling alley’s policy to honor the Groupon even though the expiration date was passed. Makes sense since you use a Groupon to get more people exposed to your company; makes no sense to annoy them during the process.

He requested more information about the issue and explained his thoughts. While this may seem counterintuitive, it made me believe he was not just blowing me off with the freebie offer that was coming, and instead legitimately wanted to correct the problem at his business.

He offered me the freebie; a couple hours of bowling and a pizza at no charge for me and the family. Can’t go wrong with free and to be honest it probably is not costing him that much, but it means a lot to the consumer especially in these economic times.

We corresponded a few more times. I am taking him up on the offer and further explained the issue I had to help him resolve it. Of course, a couple of emails do not turn me into a customer for life. If I have another bad experience or two, then I would be an idiot not to take my business somewhere else. But the response I received did give this business another chance.

Publication date: 8/20/2012