One sultry August Sunday, I was trapped. The electrical system of my keyless-entry car had gone out, right in the middle of a busy intersection. I had no flashers, couldn’t budge the windows or doors, or shift gears. I also felt like I was suffocating.
A man appeared at my window and yelled through my closed window: “Got a cell phone, honey? Call the Barboursville police. They’ll help you.”
I dialed for the police and within minutes, a handsome, young officer stood outside my car in command of the chaos. He knew everything—how to coax the door open, how to shift my car into reverse. He accomplished all this and got my car off the road, all the while diverting traffic.
That’s what great customer service accomplishes, you know. At its best, it creates a community of caring that far exceeds merely doing business. And with the holidays fast approaching, customer service is all-the-more important and here are some ways to help you make it happen:
- Keep in mind, manners aren’t just niceties. It may seem overly simplistic, but those simple words like “please” and “thank you” go a long way in customer service, whether you’re the customer or the person providing the service. Ditto for respect and genuine human kindness. Empathy and grace, too. When these virtues are part of the customer-service equation, everybody benefits.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Everyone has a story. And if you take a moment to listen, you’ll understand their side of things better. Studies show that when an organization corrects a customer-perceived problem, it actually creates a more loyal customer than if the issue had never occurred. A customer for life. Now that’s connection and community at its finest.
- Try not to judge. When my vehicle stalled, I was coming from a flea market with an interior piled high with things that would appear useless to the average person. I was mortified when the officer had to move a few of my fixer-uppers to try to find the owner’s manual. “You think I haven’t seen stuff before?” He looked beyond the junk—not judging—to see who I was.
- If you’re wrong, say so. While mailing a package, I was the epitome of a difficult customer. I tapped on the counter and breathed heavily, only later realizing that I had been part of the problem, too. For starters, I hadn’t even attempted to learn the clerk’s name or make eye contact, let alone cut him some slack for being new at the job. The whole thing bothered me so much; I went back, sincerely apologized and in doing so, made a friend.
- Compliment excellent customer service. Service personnel often have extremely difficult jobs. A little encouragement can truly make their day. Look for ways to connect with the folks who care for you, such as a package of cookies for your mail carrier, or a glass of lemonade for your lawn worker. Even better, pen a short, encouraging note detailing a specific way they’ve helped you. And during the holidays, try to tip those individuals who enhance your life throughout the year.
- Reward exemplary customer service. When a server goes above and beyond, try to tip above the standard 15-20%. And while you’re at it, take their manager aside and detail what made that service exceptional. It doesn’t cost a dime and may even help that server when considered for a promotion.
- Remember, every action ripples for all time. This goes for both positive and negative experiences in customer service. The goodwill you express lives on and on. And that’s a customer-service promise you can take to the bank.