Monday, December 6, 2010

A Lasting Impression

Recent customer service experiences both positive and negative have reminded me how important service is.  We all expect and love to be treated well.  Sometimes we are indifferent about average service but when it is memorable, we've been blown away by how poor or fantastic it was.  Three experiences have had me thinking about the quality of the service I provide to others and the impression they are left with when their experience is through.

The first occurred on Black Friday in a popular local department store.  My expectations included long lines with greedy, harried customers.  At checkout, I waited only 5 minutes at most.  The clerk greeted me with a smile, was friendly, and engaged me in conversation.  One of the clothing items I purchased rang up significantly more than the sign displayed on the table.  The clerk immediately called another associate to look up the price, despite the long line behind me.  Someone had placed several pairs of pants on the wrong table.  Without hesitation, the clerk reduced the pants I was purchasing by $8.00.  She exceeded my expectations!

The second involved picking up a phoned in to-go dinner order at a popular local sports bar.  Entering the restaurant, there were no visible employees.  Eventually a server handed me my food and a bill without a spoken word.  She picked up the phone when it rang and proceeded to take another order while simultaneously processing my payment.  She walked away without one word or even a glance in my direction.  Not one employee even saw me sign my slip or walk out the door.   

The third took place at the same department store mentioned above when I needed to return a few items.  An associate overheard me mentioning to a friend that my receipt had been left next to my computer.  While offering us a candy cane, he pointed out that the receipt could be looked up electronically with my credit card.  I was thankful for his intervention as I was prepared to make a subsequent trip.  My relief soured when I met the sales lady behind the desk who appeared annoyed with the task of processing my returns.  An attempt to carry on friendly conversation with her failed.  The reasons for my returns fell on deaf ears, evidenced by three botched attempts to complete the returns.  With the third error she promptly sputtered a curse word without concern for other customers or my two children. 

My intent is to offer these as "learning experiences."  Our standards for how we expect to be served should clearly mirror the same service we provide to others.  How difficult that can be if we're in a foul mood, in a hurry, or have had a terrible day.  Several incidents come to mind where I am regretful in how I responded to someone, failed to do what I said, or provided really poor service in general. 

We may only ever meet a person one time and the impression they are left with matters both personally and professionally.  If they are indifferent or unimpressed, they are unlikely to remember you and will likely do business with the next person they meet instead of you.  A poor experience will usually end any further contact.  An excellent experience will make someone remember you, want to build a relationship with you, refer you to others, and come to you with a need.  Here are some general things we can do to provide amazing service and leave a positive impression.

  • Acknowledge each person you meet.  Flash a genuine smile and offer a greeting.  
  • Show genuine enthusiasm for what you do. Enthusiasm is contagious!  If you love what you do and the products you offer, others will too.
  • Be positive in your thoughts, words, and attitude.  What is in our hearts, controls our thoughts, which is conveyed through our words and actions. 
  • Make each person feel special and important.  Inquire about something personal and related to the present situation to individualize the attention you afford them.
  • Go out of your way to exceed others' expectations.  Do whatever it takes to satisfy your customers, even if it costs you additional time or money.
  • Keep it personal.  A written note or a personal call is much more meaningful than an email.
  • Show gratitude.  I write a written thank you note to each of my hostesses, anyone who lets me tell them about my business opportunity, any customer I couldn't personally thank, and anyone who gives me a referral.  They are important to the success of my business and I want them to know it!
  • Do what you say you are going to do, when you promised it.  Forgetting about people tells them they are unimportant to you.  Failure to follow through is unprofessional.
  • Admit when you make a mistake and apologize.  No one is perfect.  If you "drop the ball," say so and attempt to repair the damage.
  • Be mindful of your phone etiquette.  Allow calls to go to your voicemail if you are unable to provide the caller with your undivided attention.  Also, avoid taking calls when at a business event or in the presence of a customer.  You are not approachable if your attention is elsewhere.
  • Have a professional image.  You could pick out a police officer, football player, or a nun by the uniform they wear and each conveys a particular meaning.  When people look at you, do they see an organized, hard working, professional woman who takes her business seriously?
  • Be aware that people are always watching you, whether you are "working" or not.  Others view your daily interactions, overhear conversations, and see online postings.  Your attitude and actions in your daily life will transfer over to how people see you professionally.

You want to be talked about... in a positive light, of course!  The best thing for business is for people to rave about you and tell others.  Referrals are great for business and the best kind of advertisement for a business.  Make it your business to be "talked about"!

Readers, I want to hear from you!   Share something special you do to provide excellent customer service.

Check out the books I've listed below on this topic.


No comments:

Post a Comment