/ The Art of Customer Service

Earlier this week, my wife and I went to dinner and then out to look at furniture.  As we walked into the furniture store, we were immediately tracked down by an older salesperson who introduced himself and asked if he could help us.  We told him we were browsing and he kindly left us with his card and asked if we would contact him if we had any questions.

As my wife and I looked at various pieces of furniture, he continued to pop up to answer questions.  I knew that like most furniture sales people, he was anxious to help (and anxious for the sale and the commission that goes with it).  Once we had made our selection, we went to the counter and the salesperson rung up the ticket.  After entering everything in the system, he told me the total and handed us off to a cashier – and left without saying anything further.

Once we paid, I waited for a moment for the cashier to say something – and she didn’t say anything either – other than, “you’re all set.”

I have to confess, I was a little disappointed that neither the sales person nor the cashier thanked us at any point in the sales process for coming in or for purchasing over $1000 worth the merchandise from their store.

While this likely won’t stop me from shopping there in the future, it got me thinking about the importance of continual customer service.  It seems to be somewhat of a dying art these days.

Every place you go, every restaurant you eat at, every website you visit and every doctor’s or dentist’s office you go to, there is some form of customer service – good or bad.  To me, this is what sets organizations apart from each other.  If you are treated well, you are much more likely to return.

In fact, in the neighborhood I live in, I am part of a Facebook page for residents – 725 residents to be exact.  On this page, people constantly ask the residents for advice…”Who knows a good mechanic?” “Who is a good children’s doctor?” “Who knows a good place to get Chinese food?” “Who is the best company to engage for landscaping or fencing?”

In all these cases, the community is sharing information with each other based upon each other’s recommendations.  And I see poignant examples of how customer service can make or break an organization in our neighborhood.  Those that have had good experiences gladly share them.  And those that have had poor experiences don’t leave out any details.  And just like an amazon.com review, you know who the five star organizations are and who the two star ones are.

In our data-driven society, people are increasingly talking to each other and learning from each other.  Ten years ago, a bad experience could go unnoticed and would have little impact on business.  Today, a good or bad experience is one click away from going viral.  Just ask the Chili’s restaurant in Midvale, Utah that helped an autistic girl experiencing a minor crisis with her hamburger.  A simple act of kindness by a server and manager garnered over one million likes on Facebook and ended up as one of the top stories on CNN.com.

Ultimately, customer service is about that way people are treated. People want to be treated professionally.  They wanted to be treated like human beings. They don’t want to be talked down to or feel like they are inconveniencing anyone– they want to be treated with respect.  There is an old saying that “the customer is always right.”  While there are certainly exceptions to that rule, (and some customers do need to be fired), it’s good to practice the art of listening to your customers, working to understand them and then thanking them for their business.  After all, they are the reason you are in business in the first place.

I once saw a sign at a McDonalds drive-thru (that other companies have since incorporated) that says, “We know you have other choices. Thanks for choosing McDonalds.”  More organizations should take that same approach and realize that in our social media driven society today, people know more about their other choices than during any other time in our planet’s history.   Showing appreciation is one big way to keep clients happy.  And to keep them coming back.  They will thank you and you will thank them.  It’s the attitude of gratitude – and it pays huge dividends for both sides.

So thanks….thanks for reading this blog!