Customer service as a priority

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

As technology grows, e-commerce is quickly becoming the norm. At Dale Carnegie Training, we believe people like to buy from people. Before a customer ever goes to the Internet, they have probably had some personal interface with a representative of the company he wishes to do business with. Exceeding, not just meeting, the customers' expectations is more important now that ever before.

Today's customers are more informed and more demanding. It is so important to be establishing relationships with our clients and customers. The very first principle for becoming a friendlier person that Dale Carnegie writes about in "How To Win Friends and Influence People," is a great place to start in practicing excellent customer service: " Don't criticize condemn or complain."

Often, employees realize they should not criticize or complain in front of their customers. Employees do tend to forget not to do the same about the previous customer in front of the client who is now present. Or, how about remembering not to criticize, condemn, or complain about another worker in front of the customer. Internal customer services drive our external customer service.

An excellent example of this comes to mind -- I was out to lunch with my boss, Carol. Unsure if I wanted to order the soup, the employee asked if I would first like to sample it. As it turned out, the soup was delicious, and we ordered it. My boss asked the employee to see her manager. As the manager came to the front, Carol quickly commented on what excellent customer service we had just experienced from the young employee who offered the sample. The manager looked at his employee, laughed and joked that "she does do things right occasionally."

My boss quickly responded with: "You should show this employee appreciation for a job well done, or I will hire her. I am always looking for employees with great skills such as hers." Needless to say, the manager was a little taken aback. Carol would have preferred to hear him say something like: "Thank you, all of our employees strive to make your visit enjoyable. We appreciate you noticing our efforts."

Such a typical occurrence, yet it is these small things that impact how our businesses are perceived by our customers. Mr. Carnegie's second human relation principle, "Give honest and sincere appreciation," would have benefited this manager.

Mr. Carnegie teaches us that "A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." This should always be practiced in regard to dealing with our customers. We all like to be called by our names. Employees can simply ask a customers' name, if they are unsure of it. That shows a genuine interest in the customer (another principle!) as a person, not just as an entity in your business buying something. What a great rule for telephone etiquette as well.

The last and even simpler principle we often forget to use with customers is "smile." Picture this: you are in a waiting room at the doctor's office. Everyone is tired and does not feel well. In comes a little baby, and someone in the waiting room starts to smile at the baby. Soon, everyone in the room is also smiling. Ah ... the power of a smile! Smiles can even be felt over the telephone.

Basic customer service is basic common sense. Everywhere we go as consumers, we notice signs, mission statements, and advertising that declares a business has that as its first priority. Then, why are the customers not always returning? I challenge you to look at your customer service policy, discuss it as a group. And make sure everyone who represents your business has a customer service mentality.

Sharon Mueller is the regional manager of Dale Carnegie Training. (332-0900 or www.carnegiestl.com)

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