“You can have everything you want if you will help other people get what they want,” said motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. If you’re in business, you want customers. What do your customers want? Good customer service. In fact, according to a Customer Experience Report by RightNow, 86 percent of consumers surveyed said they stopped doing business with a company because of receiving bad service. I know I have.
Here are four elements to providing good customer service:
1. Make eye contact, smile, and greet every customer. Seems easy, doesn’t it? However, lots of customer service representatives don’t do these simple things.
For example, I was recently at the grocery store and approached a check out stand at which the checker was involved in a personal conversation with the store’s security guard. I placed my groceries on the conveyer belt and the checker began to scan them while continuing to talk to her co-worker. She didn’t make eye contact with me nor acknowledge me until she finished her conversation. She then looked at me and asked, “How’s it going?”
Perhaps the checker doesn’t know that a lack of eye contact demonstrates a lack of interest and creates feelings of annoyance or general disliking from the ignored person. No doubt the checker thought that finishing her conversation with her co-worker was the polite thing to do before she turned her attention to me. She should be told that customers are more important than co-workers and to stop all personal conversations when a customer approaches.
As for smiling, experimental data shows that smiling is not only expected during the formation of new relationships (such as interacting with a customer), it is necessary. Smiling indicates whether someone is friend or foe. Additionally, we instantly return a smile, which causes the secretion of endorphins (our internal happy drug) and makes us feel good about the person who smiled at us.
When we experience social pain – like being ignored – the feeling is as real as physical pain. That’s why no eye contact, no smile, and no greeting often lead to no repeat business.
2. Seek out customer contact. This means that customer service representatives approach customers to offer help instead of customers having to solicit it. Here’s an example of what not to do.
I was in an electronics store trying to buy a TV and couldn’t get someone to wait on me. An employee rushed by and assured me that someone would be right there. After a few minutes, another employee told me the same thing. Finally, a third employee approached me and asked, “What’s up?”
Having to ask to be waited on was ridiculous, especially when I was about to spend hundreds of dollars. Then being greeted so casually just added fuel to the fire. There are plenty of other places in town to buy a TV the next time I want one.
3. Provide immediate fixes to problems. An experience I had at a local print shop illustrates a poor attempt at that process.
I ordered hundreds of bookmarks from the print shop and made arrangements to distribute them with some fellow Rotarians at a local elementary school on a Friday about noon. When I placed the order, I was promised it would be ready that Friday. When I arrived Friday morning around 10:00 to pick it up, the order was not ready. My bad – I should have asked for a specific time. I told the print shop owner about my predicament; he said my order would be completed that day as promised, but he couldn’t tell me when. So, I canceled with the school and the Rotarians and felt stupid because of having to do so.
An hour later I received a call from the print shop telling me my order was ready. I don’t know whether the owner felt bad after I left and decided to rush the order or whether it would naturally have been completed by then. What I do know is that a little effort on his part would have solved my problem and I wouldn’t have had to cancel with everyone. Because he made no effort, I’ll go to a different print shop next time.
4. Thank every guest. One of my favorite poor customer service stories happened at a bookstore. After silently handing me my change, the cashier pushed my purchase across the counter toward me and just looked at me. No “thank you,” “have a nice day,” “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” – nothing. I finally said to her, “no thank you?” She asked, “thank you for what?” She genuinely did not understand why she should thank me for shopping at the store where she is employed. Although there are not a lot of bookstores to shop at anymore, Amazon makes buying books really easy and even thanks me for my business.
My husband thinks I’m too nitpicky about customer service because I teach customer service classes. So, I conducted my own survey to see if the people in my world have stopped doing business with companies because of receiving poor customer service. Either the people I surveyed are too nitpicky too or receiving poor customer service really does drive people away.
Business owners, managers, and their employees need to know that customers can get similar goods at similar places all over town or online. The distinguishing factor between businesses is usually only the service they provide, and failure to provide good customer service is a sure way to send your customers straight to your competitors.