What kind of place are you running? Win customers and bring them back

A couple nights ago, my husband, Dave, and I were at a dinner where several of us talked about the definition of good customer service. Every one of us felt that customer service begins with employee attitude. Whenever a customer gets a bad vibe from an employee, the transaction is off to a bad start. Each of us agreed that there are times we want to shout out, “Hey, what kind of place are you running here?”

Actor/comedian W.C. Fields proclaimed that people should “start every day off with a smile and get it over with.” Sometimes it seems like front-line team members don’t know how to smile. When the first interaction with a service associate begins with an “I didn’t want to be at work today” attitude, it’s a given that things can deteriorate from there.

A company can have the best training in the world, but if the front-line team — whether in person or over the phone — haven’t bought into it, it won’t matter. The bad attitude will show and unfortunately a bad customer experience at any point can ruin a great customer relationship.

I’m from the “old school” — the one that taught that customers are VIPs. My school taught me to actually notice and acknowledge customers. Sam Walton said, “There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Recently our group of friends went to the Palace Theatre in the Wisconsin Dells. From the minute we entered the lobby we could feel how much their employees like working there. Smiles and friendly service were present from the box office to the food servers, and after the show performers joined patrons in the lobby for a meet and greet with each one demonstrating how much they love what they do.

This is the kind of atmosphere that makes customers want to return again and again, whether it’s to see a show or to visit a local restaurant or retail store. After all, the show must go on, no matter the kind of day you’re experiencing.



I called on a business coach to share some good advice on how to win customers and keep them coming back. He suggests the following:

  • Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.
  • Don’t make customers wait. Surveys show that customers nowadays expect a quick resolution to their wants and needs. Customers want to be able to easily access information either online, on the phone, or in person.
  • Be ready to help. Don’t make customers fend for themselves. Trying to figure out what they’re looking for can be frustrating for a customer, especially online — according to surveys, 45% of customers will abandon an online transaction if they can’t easily find an answer to their question or needs.
  • Build trust. Answer phones by the second ring. Be straightforward with all pertinent buying information. Give each customer a personalized experience by totally paying attention to him or her and the transaction.
  • Do everything possible to keep customers informed.
  • Have empathy, patience, and consistency. Each customer should get an enthusiastic, friendly, knowledgeable team member to help him or her.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

They know exactly what kind of place they’re running!

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