Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mind Your Customer Service Manners

My husband and I were remarking about how rare it is to receive good customer service these days. I'm not talking about the people who ring up your order at Star Bucks, Barnes and Noble or the local supermarket. Getting good customer service is often hit or miss with these guys. What I mean is the type of customer service that comes with just a little bit of common courtesy, politeness and concern. It's so sad to see that real customer service is a dying art. So much so that when I encounter someone who extends genuine concern and a friendly, helpful attitude I am more likely to buy whatever it is that they are selling.

I am tired of dealing with the representatives at my local phone company (who shall remain nameless) that treat me like I am nothing more than my 10 digits whenever I turn to them for help. I have even stopped going to the gas station that's right up the street from my house because of the way they grunt at and generally dismiss their customers. When discussing this phenomenon with a friend one day, she cut me off and said, "Face it – there is no more customer service."

When you are stuck working a job you hate, I can understand the lack of enthusiasm. I can overlook the rude young college student working at my neighborhood print shop who always seems depressed and never even bothers to say "hello" or "can I help you?" But I would think that as an entrepreneur you couldn't afford not to be nice to your clients. Being friendly, showing concern for your client's projects and updating them on your progress are important ways to establish trust.

I remember once while working my sales job with the newspaper, the advertising department had us all take part in a special customer service training seminar. They hired an expert to come in and teach us how to treat our clients so that they would always have the most satisfying experience doing business with the publication. They really kept on making a big deal about how prestigious this trainer was in the customer service training industry, and how much money they were spending to bring her to us. In the end all she did was come in and teach us the same basic etiquette your mother probably taught you.

Remember that old saying: "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?" Well it seems pretty simple, but it's true. Extending a little courtesy can go a long way in business. Go ahead and extend pleasantries like "how are you," "thank you," "can I help you with anything else?" and "have a great day/weekend." People like doing business with people they like and trust. Become both someone your clients like and trust to get the job done right and there's a good chance they will return to work with you again and again.

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