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Friday, October 28, 2011

Customer Service – Is It An Attitude?


I recently took a road trip to the tip of Florida and stopped at several restaurants and stores along the way. It struck me how differently these retail organizations approached customer service.

At Cracker Barrel, there was always one of the staff in proximity to the front door who welcomed the visitors warmly; the hostess inquired about our trip and introduced the server; the server offered suggestions about the menu, was prompt and attentive to our needs, including delivering the check immediately when we were finished the meal; in parting the cashier addressed us by name wishing us a good trip.

At Publix Food Store there is a staffer just in front of the checkout stations who asks if we found everything during our visit, and walked us to the location of the item we could not find, thanked us for shopping with them, and guided us back to the fasted line for checkout; the clerk was equally as friendly and efficient while scanning the order.

At a roadside stripmall, when we entered a variety store, the cashier hollered “HI - HOW ARE YA!” from her fortress in the center of the store and then promptly ignored us for the remainder of the visit, including talking on her cell phone while ringing up the order - slowly.

In each instance, the staff was following an established customer service procedure of how to welcome and assist customers. In the first two examples, it yielded a positive reaction, in the last one a negative feeling.

The key ingredient in each is the attitude of the staff member – warm and welcoming, helpful and engaged, or loud and detached.

Good customer service is a sales tool, but is effectively delivered when sincere, with the intention of addressing the customer's immediate needs – like realizing wasted time is stressful for travelers. Good customer service in integrated into the business process, not hung on at the end for complaints – like offering a warm and sincere welcome. Good customer service is asking if the customer wants help - like the 'personal guide' into the labyrinth of grocery isles. From my experience, it is successful when the staff actively participates, embraces its goals, and has the right attitude.

Would I go back to Cracker Barrel and Publix? Absolutely! Did their customer service accomplish the goal – it won my future patronage.

Sales is a conversation which ends in a Yes. Customer service is sales. Good customer service is embodied in staff attitude. Attitude is non-verbal communication. This makes a complete circle – each element supporting the others!

What's your experience with customer service making a positive difference?

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