3 Lessons in Customer Service
by Tim Healy
Customers are the backbone of your business. No matter what product or service you offer, you depend on the clientele to keep the lights on. There’s a lot of competition: if you don’t take care of your customers, they will go elsewhere.
Here are three lessons in customer service from some recent experiences I’ve had:
Lesson 1: Explain the Procedures
My parents recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. To mark the special occasion, we planned a special lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. When I called to make the reservation, the hostess told me they could not handle a group of 9 people, but suggested that “if you invite one less person we can accommodate you.”
I asked, “who should I not invite? My Mom or Dad?”which I thought was funny. She didn’t, and hung up
on me with no further explanation.
The result? It will be a long time before we go back to that restaurant.
Your business was built on certain standards and procedures that allow you to give the best
service possible to your clientele. In many situations, you can’t break those standards. But being
rude should never be the response. Take the time to explain to the customer why you cannot
honor a request, and if possible, offer something to get them to come back to you.
Lesson 2: Focus on the Service, Not the Survey
On several recent trips to the local Volvo dealership, I received subpar service. Issues weren’t checked and questions not answered, resulting in me needing to make multiple trips in for repairs. Despite everything the service team forgot, they remembered to ask me to fill out a survey, not just once, but multiple times.
You see surveys everywhere you go. It’s natural to ask for feedback or testimonials, especially as a way to gauge how your staff is performing when you’re not around. But too often, businesses are more focused on the survey, not the service being offered. Instead of pushing for that feedback, first make sure you are delivering the best experience for your customers.
Lesson 3: Make Amends (When Possible)
Once on a work trip, I stayed at the Montage Laguna Beach. Before heading to the airport to return home, I wanted to have one last meal at the hotel restaurant. I was met by an employee who refused to seat me several minutes before 5:00, turning me away. The hotel responded with an apology, exemplary service, a free dessert as a way to make amends.
No one is perfect. Chances are, eventually you will make a service mistake. Whether an employee is having a bad day, or you have a rule in place that means you can’t honor a request, you will end up with an unhappy customer at some point. If possible, try to make amends – a discount, free offer, or even an apology can go a long way.
The customer is not always right. Unreasonable demands and “Karens” of the world do not need to be tolerated. However, it is important to remember that your customers make or break your business. Whenever possible, great service should be your biggest priority.