Whatever happened to customer service?

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After a brief encounter this past week at a big box retailer a business friend asked me, “Whatever happened to customer service?” She had just tried to buy a gift card and after waiting in a checkout line for at least five minutes was told by an unenthusiastic clerk that she’d have to take her purchase to a different register. I don’t blame my friend for feeling ticked off. I would agree — whatever happened to customer service?

Stores used to take such good care of customers that folks wouldn’t think of shopping anyplace else. Now that we have even more shopping choices, it would only seem natural that brick-and-mortar stores would say and do all the right things to keep up with the competition. Keeping customers coming back should be a company’s first priority.

Richard Shapiro, founder and president of The Center For Client Retention, and author of The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business, believes an employee’s personal relationship with customers enables them to deliver the best customer service.

My takeaway on his advice and some of my own includes:

  • Make sure frontline team members make a great first impression within the first 10 seconds of greeting customers. There’s an old saying — “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
  • Create a culture of enthusiasm and appreciation that starts with team members and in turn creates that feeling in customers. Customers do business where they enjoy the people. Personal rapport goes a long way toward building customer loyalty.
  • Encourage team members to greet customers in store and on the phone with a big smile and a warm greeting. When a prospective customer visits, calls, texts, or emails your company, that person expects a certain level of attention. Whether that individual decides to do business again with your company depends largely on how he/she is treated.
  • Keep the spotlight on the customer.
  • Teach team members to avoid phrases like, “It’s not my department,” and instead say, “I’ll be happy to find out for you.”



Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D., author of How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, tells us, “In the final analysis, the customer is the real boss. Management may allocate the money but the customer determines how much there is.”

In his book Seven Power Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty, Paul R. Timm, Ph.D., says, “Successful companies earn customer loyalty by constantly seeking ways to meet or exceed what customers anticipate and by strengthening the ongoing relationship with that customer.”

Assuming an occasional upset customer is of no major consequence is a sure-fire formula for lost customers. No doubt my friend will follow the old rule that a dissatisfied customer will tell at least 10 other people about his or her bad experience. In the internet age it’s not really wise to take a chance on bad reviews.

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