Make superior customer service your routine

Last week, after finishing up my shopping, the last point of contact in the store was with the bagger. After she finished up, she sent me on my way with, “Have a nice day.” Unfortunately, she said this with a tone like, “Your dog died.” Not very friendly and certainly not very focused on the customer. I am sure that this place has a manual that tells their baggers to say the phrase. That same manual might even suggest that it be said with a positive attitude. However, what happened is an indicator of how many customer service people go through the paces and really do not have a customer-focused attitude.

On the flip side of this story is another store that actually advertises “A helpful smile in every aisle.” Every time I’m there I’m amazed at the attitude of the employees. Every time I turn a corner, there is another smile and another person asking if I’m finding everything I’m looking for. I walk away from this place with a smile on my own face as a result of the treatment I receive.

Superior customer service does not happen by accident. It is mission critical that people in that role actually like people. If they don’t, all the manuals and training in the world will do little to change. Message: Hire people who like people for customer service roles.

Dale Carnegie said that a smile is something that comes from the inside out. It can be faked, but the fakes are easily spotted. This is true over the phone as well as face-to-face. Message: Smile.

If you hire people who like people, you will find that they’re genuinely interested in helping your customers. They will build better long-term customer relationships because they care. They’re happy when their customers are happy. Before they even think of suggesting a product or service, they get a good sense of what the customer truly wants and/or needs. They do not sell, sell, sell. Message: Build customer relationships. Don’t just sell stuff. And this message holds true even for the food server who is waiting on that one customer or the customer service rep in a call center responding to a customer concern.



At Stew Leonard’s Farm Fresh Foods out east, they have a three-ton granite rock at the entrance to their store. On the rock is:


Rule 1 — The customer is always right.

Rule 2 — If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1.

The very last thing any customer ever needs to hear is: “You’re wrong” or “That’s our policy.” If you want to lose and alienate customers, just keep telling them they are wrong. Message: NEVER criticize your customer!

If you are going to meet customers where they are coming from, it is also mission critical that you ask them questions and listen to their responses. If you do that effectively, only then will you be in a position to effectively address their needs. I know you can go out and buy a hearing aid if you need one. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a listening aid. You just have to do it! Message: Listen to your customer!

It absolutely incredible what customers do when they are on the receiving end of great customer service. Kathy and I were at a very nice restaurant a while back and were halfway through our dinner. Our bottle of wine was getting low. We really did not need another bottle. However, by this time our waiter was our best friend and when he suggested that another bottle was a good idea, we couldn’t help but say “yes.” And after we finished a very filling dinner, somehow his dessert suggestions led to a yes as well. We walked out both happy and full. Message: Exceed customer expectations.

One last insight

I once heard my friend, Craig Culver, comment that the customer is not number one — your people are. The essence of this insight is that if you treat your people right, they in turn will take care of your customers. Final message: Exceed your internal customers’ expectations and they will do the same for your external customers.

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