Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Shock Your Customers

By Tamara Martfeld

Customer service seems to be missing in many places. In a restaurant, one may experience waiting 15-20 minutes to place an order after the menus are closed and waiting 30 minutes to get a bill – when being the only one in the restaurant (I do understand when there are others being served). If you call a company on the phone, voice mail answers and instructs you to hit any of several keys, none of which will get you to a real person and sometimes not give you an option for the issue which is the reason for the call. If you leave a message, good luck getting a return call within the week if at all. Many sales people act as if you are an inconvenience to them instead of the reason they even have a job. Many companies act as if you are there to serve them! You get the idea. I am sure you have experienced the same thing I have and may have also noticed that customer service in general seems to be getting worse, not better. That is why it is so easy to shock your customers.

To shock your customers, all you have to do is give them real, old-fashioned customer service. Just as I am sure you have experienced the scenarios above, I am sure you have also experienced the opposite scenarios. In a restaurant, you have had your order taken as soon as you have closed the menus, been checked on to ensure everything was acceptable, had your plates cleared when the meal was finished, and had the check given to you within a reasonable time – all without ever feeling rushed.

You have called a company and reached a real, live person who did everything possible to help you and get you to the person who could help you if the first contact was not the right person. If you leave a message, you get a return call within 24 hours. Sales people have gone out of their way to get you what you needed and help you. You have encountered companies which have made you feel they enjoy serving you.

To shock your customers, follow the examples of the second set of scenarios. It is very easy. When someone calls you, return the call within four hours if at all possible. If it is not generally possible for you to return calls this quickly, let people know in your out-going message when they can expect your return call, and give yourself some extra time in case something comes up. The sooner you return the call, the more you will shock most of your customers.

If your contact with your customers is through e-mail, respond as soon as you can. If you only go through e-mails during a certain time of the day or week, have an automatic response which indicates this so that your customers know what to expect. If the topic is something you need to research before being able to respond, let the customer know that you are working on their question.

In my job, just using the above two methods of customer service has reduced my follow-up contacts from my customers. My customers know they will get a return contact within four work hours (if they call in the afternoon, the return contact may be the next morning). They know that when I say I will let them know when I have an answer to their question, that I really will contact them as soon as I have the answer. The result is that I do not receive multiple contacts about pending issues, which means fewer responses I need to make. They have also complimented me many times for my quick responses. This may be different for others depending on your customers. My customers are a fairly closed set of people – in other words, I am working with the same individuals on a normal basis.

For other types of customer service, treat the customer as you would a king or queen which you respect. Give them a big smile. Pay attention to their needs. Acknowledge their existence. I recently walked out of a fast food restaurant after standing at the counter for five minutes without anyone acknowledging me. The manger looked me in the eye from the back, and still no response. It should have been obvious to them that I was ready to order as I was not even looking at the menu. Having worked fast food in the past, I knew this was not acceptable, especially since I was the only customer in the place.

If you are having trouble determining what is good customer service in your field of work, think of the bad encounters you have had with others in your field or a similar field. Whatever they did, do the opposite. Treat your customers as you wish you had been treated. If it is acceptable in your field or in your job, ask the customers for feedback via a form or phone number. Their feedback can bring to your attention something you never considered an issue.

At the very minimum, you will help ensure that the customer returns and provides business to help justify your job. You are also less likely to receive complaints from the customers. If you encounter someone like me, your boss will get a call letting him or her know how great you are.

Enjoy the looks of delight as you shock your customers. And when you get shocked by great customer service, don’t forget to let the bosses know about the great service.