robin paggi

Robin Paggi is a human resources consultant with worklogic legal solutions.

“You can have everything you want if you will help other people get what they want,” said motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.

If you’re in business, you want customers. What do your customers want? Good customer service. In fact, according to a Customer Experience Report by RightNow, 86 percent of consumers surveyed said they stopped doing business with a company because of receiving bad service.

What does good customer service look like? Here are some key elements:

Make eye contact, smile, and greet every customer. Seems easy, doesn’t it? However, lots of customer service representatives don’t do these simple things.

For example, I was recently at the grocery store and approached a checkout stand at which the checker was involved in a personal conversation with the store’s security guard. I placed my groceries on the conveyer belt and the checker began to scan them while still talking to her co-worker. She didn’t make eye contact with me nor acknowledge me until she finished her conversation. She then looked at me and asked, “How’s it going?” Annoyed, I replied, “Fine,” and that’s all the interaction she got from me that day. I’m sure she thought I was being incredibly rude.

Perhaps the checker doesn’t know that a lack of eye contact demonstrates a lack of interest and creates feelings of annoyance or general disliking from the ignored person. No doubt the checker thought that finishing her conversation with her co-worker was the polite thing to do before she turned her attention to me. She should be told that the customer is more important than the co-worker and having personal conversations in front of customers is not the polite thing to do.

As for smiling, experimental data shows that smiling is not only expected during the formation of new relationships (such as interacting with a customer), it is necessary. Smiling indicates whether someone is friend or foe. Additionally, we instantly return a smile, which causes the secretion of endorphins (our internal happy drug) and makes us feel good about the person who smiled at us.

When we experience social pain — like being ignored — the feeling is as real as physical pain. That’s why no eye contact, no smile and no greeting often lead to no repeat business.

Seek out customer contact

This means that customer service representatives approach customers to offer help instead of customers having to solicit it. Here’s an example of what not to do.

I was in an electronics store trying to buy a TV and couldn’t get someone to wait on me. An employee rushed by and assured me that someone would be right there. After a few minutes, another employee told me the same thing. Finally, a third employee approached me and asked, “What’s up?” I angrily replied, “I’d like to buy this TV, that’s what’s up!” I’m sure he had no idea why I was upset.

Having to ask to be waited on was ridiculous, especially when I was about to spend hundreds of dollars. Then being greeted so casually just added fuel to the fire. I’ll go elsewhere the next time I want a new TV.

Provide immediate fixes to problems

An experience I had at a local print shop illustrates a poor attempt at that process.

I ordered hundreds of bookmarks from the print shop and made arrangements to distribute them with some fellow Rotarians at a local elementary school on a Friday about noon. When I placed the order, I was promised it would be ready that Friday. When I arrived Friday morning around 10 to pick it up, the order was not ready.

My bad — I should have asked for a specific time. I told the print shop owner about my predicament; he said my order would be completed that day as promised, but he couldn’t tell me when. So, I canceled with the school and the Rotarians and felt stupid because of having to do so.

An hour later, I received a call from the print shop telling me my order was ready. I don’t know whether the owner felt bad after I left and decided to rush the order or whether it would naturally have been completed by then. What I do know is that a little effort on his part would have solved my problem and I wouldn’t have had to cancel with everyone. No effort on his part resulted in no more business from me.

Thank every guest

One of my favorite poor customer service stories happened at a bookstore. After silently handing me my change, the cashier pushed my purchase across the counter toward me and just looked at me. No “thank you,” “have a nice day,” “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” — nothing. I finally said to her, “No thank you?” She asked, “Thank you for what?” She genuinely did not understand why she should thank me for shopping at the store where she is employed. Amazon gets my business now.

Business owners, managers and their employees need to know that customers can get similar goods at similar places all over town. The distinguishing factor between businesses is usually only the service they provide, and failure to provide good customer service is a sure way to send your customers straight to your competitors.

If you want to attract and retain customers, give them good customer service. Otherwise, they’ll let your competitors give it a try.

Robin Paggi is a training and development specialist with Worklogic HR.

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