How often have you listened to a friend or family member rave about the exceptional service they received? Hardly ever, right?
How many times of you listened to your friends and family rant about how awful they were treated? More than you can remember?
It’s only natural for us (the customer) to respond hastily when we feel we have been wronged. And when finally, we get the treatment we deserve we’re just as quick to dismiss it as, “They are just doing their job”, or, “that’s what they get paid for”.
Business owners and managers are encouraged to celebrate the wins, no matter how little. Catch an employee doing the right thing and make a big deal about it, let everyone know.
We (customers) should adopt a similar mindset.
Thank him/her on the spot in front of their co-workers and other customers. If you have the time, ask to speak with a manager and offer up your sincere appreciation for the employee. Call someone as your walking back to your car and tell them the story. When you get home, (none of us use our smart phones while driving), put your story on Facebook tell all your friends at once. Go online to send an email directly to the businesses hire ups. Go to localcustomerservice.wordpress.com 🙂 and leave your story for everyone to see.
An employee who provided you with outstanding service probably does it consistently throughout his/her day. Acknowledgement from a customer can go far and encourage the employee to maintain and even possibly step his service up another notch, then providing an even more outstanding experience for the customers still to come.
So don’t forget to celebrate the Win!
There are varying levels of Customer Service across a wide range of industries and markets. The two steps below can be applied to any industry in any situation involving a customer and an employee. Regardless of what takes place during the time between; either one of the following moments can cause the business to lose or gain a customer for life.
The first step in providing Excellent Customer Service is for the business to recognize the customer AND make some kind of contact to ensure s/he knows they have been noticed.
Acknowledgement can be done in different ways including verbal; “Hi/Hello.”, “How are you today.” and non-verbal; eye contact with a smile, a head nod, or a simple wave of the hand. Any of these can instantly allow the customer a sense of recognition.
Customers are typically impatient, however, if they have been properly acknowledged and all visible employees appear to be working, their anxiety levels will stay a minimum. For a short period of time.
On the other hand, being flat-out ignored is deeply frustrating. It can and will lead the customer to loudly voice his/her opinions or simply leave and share the experience with friends and family.
Equally important to the customer is feeling appreciated for their business. Customers have options and sometimes those options are closer and more convenient. It is vital that businesses and their employees recognize and thank the customer for choosing them.
This cannot be the mindless, heartless, “Thank you, come again” offered by someone with the feelings of an ATM. The customer gets the same emotional contact from the ‘Thank You’ printed on the sign by the door and on the plastic bags that fill up the back seat.
The key to appreciation is sincerity. Employees should look the customer in the eye and say out loud. “Thank you. I appreciate you coming in today.” Sounds simple, but so many find it difficult to say with any real emotional connection.
Think about it next time you hear a sales person or waitress say ‘Thank you’. Do you think he/she meant it? Do you feel appreciated?
What Do We Expect? May 29, 2012
We all have different expectations of Customer Service. Most of us probably don’t realize our expectations change depending on the business establishment we’re visiting. What kind of service are we looking for at the grocery store? Meat & produce need to be fresh. Don’t make me wait in line for twenty minutes, while employees stand around talking about the weekend. And you better not put my six-pack of Shipyard in the same bag with my bread.
Do we care if no one said, “Hello welcome to Hannaford”? No. Do we care that no one asked us if we know how to properly cook that fine-cut of meat? No. Does it bother us when no one asked if we have everything to finish our meal? No.
How does our way of thinking change when we’re shopping one of the big-box home improvement stores, orange or blue, doesn’t matter. We want to be greeted, and quickly. We want the employees to acknowledge that we have chosen, orange over blue, or, blue over orange. We want someone to offer us assistance, even if we don’t need it. This is an area of concern right now, as some stores have become overbearing with offering assistance. But that’s a post for another day. After accepting assistance we expect the employee to know absolutely everything there is to know about the department they happened to find us in. They better ask us all the right questions and make sure we leave with every last item we need to complete our project. If the project fails or something is forgotten and we have to come back to the store, it was the employee’s fault and there will be hell to pay. Well, maybe not hell but we certainly deserve a discount. Right?
It isn’t uncommon for Wal-Mart to receive decent Customer Service scores. How is that possible? It’s possible because our expectations for Wal-Mart are typically low. What services do we want from Wal-Mart? “Welcome to Wal-Mart” greet when we walk in the front door. A reasonable amount of wait time at check out. And a smiley face sticker for our kids when we leave. With expectations this low it’s easy for the customer to say; Yes, I was satisfied with my visit today.
So, the next time you visit a specialty retailer; Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, Sears, or any other business where you expect better than good service. Recognize that your expectations of the company and it’s employees may become elevated, as they should if you are making a major purchase, computer or lawn mower, vs. a pair of socks or a dozen eggs.
Do yourself a favor, keep your expectations realistic, allow yourself a satisfying opportunity to experience Customer Service.
Feel Good Story from Maine May 28, 2012
Driving home on a snowy night, Ryan sees a pair of flashing lights ahead of him. He slows down and observes two people looking under the hood. He pulls over and gets out to see if there is anything he can do to help. As he steps away from his SUV a nervous looking young woman gets into the stranded Chevy Blazer.
“I could smell burning rubber, thought it was the tires from being in 4wd. Then everything just shut down.” Said a young man.
Ryan takes a peak at the front of the engine. “Your serpentine belt is gone. It’s an easy enough fix if we can get a belt.”
“What part store is going to be open this late?” said the young man.
“I know this sounds crazy but I’m pretty sure I have a belt in my garage, is this a 1999?”
“I need to make a phone call. Jump in and warm up.” Ryan says.
The young man looked at his girl in the passenger’s seat. “I think I’ll stay out here.” He said.
“Suit yourself.” Ryan said and got into his driver’s seat. He called his wife and told her what was happening and what he thought he could do. She looked up the part on her laptop and confirmed the belt Ryan had purchased for her 99 Blazer would fit. Ryan sold then 99 a week after buying the belt, but like many other things, he kept it ‘just in case’.
Ryan got out and walked over to the young man to tell him the good news. He offered the couple to come along for the ride to at least stay warm for the next half hour or so. The woman gave him a half-hearted line about waiting for AAA. Ryan knew she was lying, but he couldn’t blame the young Massachusetts couple for not wanting to get in the car with a stranger, out in the woods of Maine. He told them he’d be back and they each threw him an apprehensive smile as he drove away.
About ten minutes later Ryan pulled into his driveway and went to the garage, got the belt and a couple of hand tools. His wife brought out three travel mugs filled with hot coffee. Ryan kissed her, gave her a description of the couple, their vehicle and the plate number, just to be safe. Then drove back out into the snow.
Shock! Was the look on their faces when Ryan returned. When he handed the woman a hot cup of coffee shock turned to appreciation and her eyes swelled with tears.
Ryan asked the young man to assist and in less than five minutes, the belt was on. The woman cried openly at the sound of her engine starting again.
“What do we owe you?” The young man asked, wallet in hand.
“You don’t owe me anything.”
“At least let me pay for the belt”
“Just remember that there are still good people who want to do the right thing.” Ryan handed the young man a business card. “And the next time you need car parts you’ll know where to go.”
The young man looked at the card.
Advance Auto Parts
South Paris, Maine
Have a story of your own? Comment on this post and share with all of us.
Two Customer Service Myths
MYTH– the Customer is ALWAYS right.
This is often the first rule most companies drill into their employees. The fact is some of us (the customer) are lazy, obnoxious, or mean and most of us carry a sense of entitlement causing us to believe, ‘I’m giving them my business and my money; they should cater to everything I request’.
An example of when the customer is wrong?
They want something illegal.
I experienced this frequently while managing an auto parts store. The most outrageous example was a local garage owner who would ask us to mark up the prices on his invoice. He wanted it to show a higher price than he actually paid, so he could charge his customer even more. No, not happening.
FYI- The automotive parts industry, this includes retail stores, dealerships and junk yards basically have three pricing levels. 1-List price, 2-Retail price, 3-Commercial Price. The system is designed to allow mechanics and garages to make money on not only the labor but the parts as well.
‘List Price’ Is highest price point you’ll see for parts. Who/How these prices are determined, I don’ know nor does it matter for this discussion.
‘Retail Price’ Is the price you and I would pay if we walked into the store and purchased the part for ourselves.
‘Commercial Price’ Is the price your mechanic paid for the part. Almost always a disoucnt from retail. Depending on the the part it may be a small discount on others a much deeper discount from retail.
Before agreeing to have service done ask your mechanic where he/she gets the parts from. Call or visit the parts store yourself get an idea of the retail cost for the parts. Bottom line is never pay your mechanic more for a part you could have purchased yourself at retail pricing.
Ok, back on track….
TRUTH– The customer is often wrong (wanting illegal or unethical practices, didn’t read the instructions, wasn’t home to accept delivery). It’s the business leaders responsibility to ensure even especially these customers are handled with the charm and etiquette true to service leadership.
MYTH– Customer Service is just words used by businesses to get us into the store.
I have had the displeasure of working as a manager for such a company. During the interview process and scattered throughout the company’s employee handbook was customer service this, and customer service that. For a guy who is really passionate about what he does the propaganda quickly drew me in. It didn’t take me long to realize my immediate supervisor didn’t share my passion. I could go on and on about my disgust for this manager and the higher-ups that allowed her to consistently let down our customers, but, those stories are for another time. Let’s just leave it at this was a company who said “We’re all about customer service!” out loud, and then secretly to themselves thought “It’s all about the dollar.”
I have also experienced the great pride that comes from working for a company that truly understands and gets behind the idea of providing legendary customer service. This company made it very easy. Do what’s right for the customer for the customer and you’ll never be wrong. Don’t worry about gross margin, if the customer says it’s cheaper somewhere else give them a discount, take their word for it. While working for this company one of my Team Members seemed to struggle with the thought of taking back every single return the customers brought into the store. While working the counter with him one day we saw a customer getting out of his car with two bags of parts he was going to return. I could see the anxiety on my employees face. Before the customer entered the store I asked him how much money he had in his pockets. He looked at me funny and pulled out a handful of crumpled up bills. Seventeen dollars he said to me. By now the customer was in the store and together we took care of our customer and less than five minutes later he left with over $100 in hand from returning the parts. ‘Man that kills me.’ Said my side kick
How much money do you have your pocket now? I asked him. Same as before he said seventeen dollars. It was amazing I think I actually saw the light turn between his ears. From that day he understood how extremely easy our company had made it for guys like he and I. Take care of the customer and you’ll always be right.
TRUTH– There are companies with a true desire to provide us with the service we deserve. And it may surprise you to know that it was the big corporation that stood with me and shared my passion, while the small family owned store said one thing and did another.
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