Column: The little things


A few years back, I spent nearly 45 minutes at a local hobby store trying to convince my son that building a Pinewood Derby car would be fun. Along with a handful of other fathers, I wandered around the store aimlessly desperately trying to find the right accessories for the car. The staff did everything possible to avoid us, ducking in and out of empty aisles. When I finally got someone’s attention, he was clearly irritated that I had interrupted his day.

On a separate occasion, my wife and I had dinner with some close friends. It was a unique restaurant where we ordered multiple courses. Every time we asked the waiter for help he acted as though he had 10 tables too many and would get to us when he got the chance.

It’s unlikely that I will visit either of these places again.

If you’re the only game in town, you can treat your customers however you want. However, in an abundant society filled with a lot of choices, you have little room for error.

Do you remember the days when the cable and phone companies had no competition? You would wait on the phone forever to talk to a rude customer service representative. If a service visit was required, you were then given a six- to-eight-hour time frame when they might be able to get to your home.

Then satellite TV and mobile phones hit the scene. The next thing you know you’re able to get through to a service representative who has just completed Dale Carnegie training and can’t wait to take care of your problem.

As just about everything becomes a commodity, customer service is more important than ever.

So, what makes great customer service?

While it’s a little different for everyone, there are some basic fundamentals that you should consider as you prepare to engage with your market.

It always begins with the first impression. Some research suggests that an individual makes this impression in less than two seconds and once it’s made, it’s extremely difficult to change. When you engage with a prospect make sure that you smile (even over the phone – they can tell), thank them for the opportunity (gratitude goes a long way), and get clear about exactly what they expect (without being too pushy).

If your customer has any issue with your product/service, always start with an apology. Over the holiday season, I was on the phone with a variety of service providers with a problem and only 1 (Verizon) started the conversation by apologizing for the fact that I had to make the call.

When the transaction is complete, deliver a genuine “thank you for choosing us.” This is different from the canned “we know you have a choice in air transportation” you receive every time you land at your destination. This is heartfelt, and if appropriate is even followed up with a hand written note.

As with most things in life, intellectually speaking this is easy. All you need to do is choose to execute.

Choose wisely.


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