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We've forgotten the customer

I’ve been through five recessions since I started my jewellery apprenticeship in 1963. There was a lot of pressure on jewellers during recessions; the one in the 1980s was very damning – we were paying 25 per cent for business finance among other things. But we survived it, because we took care of our customers.

Today, I think we’ve forgotten the client is more important than anything else. Without them we have nothing – so we should treat them like they’re princesses and princes.

You see, private banks or shareholders own most of the chain stores, and it’s common now to go into a store where people are too busy to serve you – they’re either on their phone or socialising.

Many ‘traditional’ businesses are gone, but we independent and manufacturing jewellers have survived. We can still provide a place that holds up highly esteemed, quality service. The kind that when you go in, you know you’re going to be attended to. You’ll be given that feeling that you’re a most welcome client.

Yes, we get frustrated when customers walk in the door with something they bought from a chain store that now needs repairing; and when we say we want $100 to fix it, they say “but I only paid $200 for it”. In this situation, sometimes it feels like you’re wasting your time – but we still need to give these people quality service.

"I can honestly say that in 50 years, I’ve never failed to get someone to hand over anything from a $5 piece to a $100,000 piece for repair"

In the ‘old days’, people used to walk into a jewellery store and get service for ‘nothing’. It’s an old tradition, but the next generation of jewellers don’t understand this because they feel they need to make money out of everybody who walks in the door.

I still see it in stores that I call on: people walk in and they want advice for free. “How much is this piece of gold worth? Would you buy it? How much is so-and-so, I want an evaluation done but I don’t want it for insurance. I don’t want to pay, just tell me what it’s worth”. I still see and hear these questions almost every day.

I have a regular customer who first came into my store years ago, looking somewhat scruffy. But he would put anything from $2,000 upwards on the counter regularly, two to three times a year. Recently he said to me, ”You’ve never looked down on me, and you’ve always served me,” and I said, “Yes, because you’re important to me.”

The same goes for every one of my customers. If they go away unhappy, they’re going to tell people; but if I can help them with a $5 or $10 watch battery, they might tell their friends. And I don’t know what business they might ultimately bring me.

At the end of the day it’s important to give the best service you can offer. Get training, or employ somebody that is trained. There’s still a terrible image of jewellers being crooks, after the media ran stories about diamonds being swapped and items being overpriced. We have to build trust and confidence with customers again.

I can honestly say that in 50 years, I’ve never failed to get someone to hand over anything from a $5 piece to a $100,000 piece for repair and have them say with confidence, “I trust you. You’ve given me the reasons why I need to have this fixed, you’ve done drawings for me, and you’ve shown me what needs to be done”.

Sometimes helping someone can be that simple. I draw what a claw looks like, and then let the woman see under an eyeglass that the claw is broken. Then she understands what she’s paying for, and she’ll pay $200 to have it repaired.

Customers need to know what work is actually being done on a product. After all, that gives them satisfaction and security, especially when they see the person who’s going to work on it.

I think we’ve allowed ourselves to be caught up in the ‘quick sell, make money situation’.

We’ve forgotten how to sell ourselves and our expertise to the satisfaction of our client, so that they trust us to do the job right, at any price we can offer them. They don’t have to be done for nothing or cheaply; but when the correctly trained person speaks to them, and we take the time to help them understand more about the process, you’ll get them to pay the right price – and top price.

My motto is: “Diamonds are not the girl’s best friend – the real jeweller is.”

Name: Bruce Rosewarne
Business: Bruce R Rosewarne, FGAA
Position: Owner/director
Location: Mooloolaba, QLD
Years in the industry: 55 years

LJ West Diamonds

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