The Lovely Mrs. McKay is a crafty person. Not crafty in the sense that she plots and schemes, but rather in the sense that she crafts things. Usually decorative household items. She’s also an accomplished seamstress, and loves making costumes.

Last week she was on a mission: there was a particular fabric she needed to sew a costume for our eldest granddaughter. I was drafted as the pilot, navigator, and sidekick for this adventure.

We set out to find the nearby Major Craft Store. Because we were somewhat new in the community, we’d never visited it before. We had been told it was about 40 miles away.

Taking my role as navigator seriously, I called information for the store’s number, and then phoned for directions.

They hung up on me.

OK, it could have been a mistake.

I called back, and again asked for directions.

This time they put me on hold. Four long, awkward, cell-phone minutes passed. I think the stubborn gene I inherited from my maternal grandfather had already kicked in by the time I hung up and redialed.

This time I asked “Would you page any customer who lives in the neighborhood to come to the phone?

The employee on the other end was confused. I repeated my request. “Since none of you seem to be able to explain your location, please ask anyone in the store who doesn’t work there to direct me.

The clerk placed me on hold. It took two more minutes for the manager to get to the phone.

I explained that I was driving on the Federal Interstate Highway System, and merely needed directions which might include the correct exit, and any necessary thoroughfares that would lead me to his fine establishment.

He apologized, and gave me very simple directions: next exit, two zigs and a zag to his parking lot.

We arrived to minimal fanfare.

After roughly 20 minutes of searching, the Lovely Mrs. McKay determined they didn’t have the fabric. Disappointedly, we left.

Although this is the end of my story, its not today’s point.

Today’s point involves customer contact.

We live in a time of plenty. Neither supply or distribution is a problem. Today you not only have competitors on the next block, but also on several other continents. People will do business with you, if they choose to.

Only if they choose to.

And people tend to choose to do business where they’re made to feel important.

How important do your customers feel?

Most owners and managers know how important each customer is. When the boss is in, most employees offer pretty good customer service. But how do your employees handle shoppers when you’re not there?

Try this: call your own company, and listen. Don’t place the calls yourself, since your voice is likely recognizable by your staff. Have someone else place the call, and listen in.

One of my clients, after conducting this exercise, fired one employee and gave another a raise. Another discovered that when his night mode voice mail was on, there was literally no way to leave a message.

Its no secret that people are suspicious of advertising.

The first time the actions of your employees contradict the message in your ads shoppers determine you to be a liar. And many times the first actual contact shoppers have with your company is the telephone.

Would you do business with your own company, if the impression you got on the phone was all you had to go by?