The Year of the Customer – Are You Ready?

Year of the Customer

Even after a recession, when businesses have been closing and people have been laid off, customer service is still terrible!

How can this be? This should be a top priority all the time, but especially in tough times. Here are some tips to improve your customer service – and make this a great year for your customers!

1.) Be friendly. What happens to customers when they enter your business? Is there a gate keeper or a host? Gate keepers keep people out, hosts make people feel welcome. Your host should be smiling and should greet people when they come in. Bonus tips for restaurants – “How many?” is not a greeting. Try something crazy like, “Hello!” This goes for the phone too – do callers hear warmth or annoyance?

2.) Stop assuming. I hate to say it, but too many managers are delusional. They think they can pay their front line people peanuts, treat them poorly, give them little to no training or feedback, and have them radiating joy and happiness all day. Get real managers. Have you ever rewarded good service? Does Susie Sunshine earn more than Evil Eddie? I bet not. That would be too hard.

3.) Be responsive. I know we can’t all be perfect, but people want you to respond quickly. After all, they are trying to give you money. Seat them quickly, get them through check-out lines quickly, don’t keep them on hold. If people have to wait, at least train your employees to communicate!

Too many times I see employees talking to each other rather than helping customers. Hello? There’s a recession, people! You cannot afford to ignore your customers! But see number 2 – do your employees really have any incentive to help customers? And where are you when this is happening? In your office answering e-mail?

4.) Provide information. All people are not technology experts – they need help and information. They don’t know how to find all the things in your store or understand all the services you offer. The worst thing is, most of your employees don’t seem to have this information either. Train them! Or make the information accessible.

Listen to what questions customers ask – do they want nutrition information on the menu? Is your return policy confusing? If more than three people have a problem or ask a question – address it! Don’t blame the customer for not reading your small print or your lame sign. They are in a hurry – train your people to be proactive and explain problem areas.

5.) Have a great attitude. Customers will put up with a lot if the person trying to help them has a great attitude. Things are going to happen no matter how hard we try. Mistakes will be made. If you can keep smiling and the customer knows you are really trying, they will cut you a break.It’s when you lose it or come across as rude, that they get angry. If you are a front line customer service person, your job will be a thousand times easier if you can remain friendly.

You will also have job security – your boss won’t want to lose you and all the customers you impress will want to hire you. And you will have so much more fun. We attract the energy we give out – give out happiness and good will – and it will return to you tenfold. Be rude – and you will suffer.

5a.) Supervisors – this attitude thing goes for you too. Your people are often mirrors of you. Are you always angry and stressed? Well – there you go! Expect your people to be angry and stressed as well. I believe leaders get the followers they deserve. What kind of followers do you have?

Companies talk a lot about customer service but at the end of the day, their actions speak louder than their words. They don’t take care of their customer service people, yet they expect them to carry the company. But front line people have to carry part of the burden as well – are you really friendly?

I’ve seen heavy sighs and eye rolls way too may times when I simply wanted to pay for a purchase. I’ve tried to find items in poorly organized stores and been ignored by employees who could have helped me. wake up, people!

You wonder why sales are down? Because you treat your customers like garbage. You are mad when they want to return things or ask questions or need help. You make jokes about how stupid they are. Welcome to the Year of the Customer. Next time you treat a customer badly, you just might be out of a job. But be a superstar in all you do and who knows to what levels you might rise!

About the Author

Denise Ryan, MBA, is a motivational speaker, she holds the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP).

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