good customer service

There is an old song entitled, “People,” made popular by Barbara Streisand. The song says, “People who love people are the luckiest people in the world.” This song came to mind shortly after I had a brief conversation with the manager of one of favorite neighborhood restaurants about good service.

Our conversation started with my complimenting him about the excellent service we have experienced at his restaurant. In particular, I thanked him for the fact that every server we have had there was not only friendly but also provided good service. This is particularly noteworthy because we eat at this restaurant frequently. We have been served by at least five or six different servers in the last few months.

During our discussion he noted that providing good service was a combination of selecting the right people and then training them properly. However, of the two, we agreed that the most important element is to hire servers who like people. As the manager commented, “I long ago learned that if you hire a grumpy person and expect them to provide good service, you will be disappointed.”

Providing good customer service starts with having the people – those who are in contact with customers – being the kind of people who like people. To paraphrase the song, “Companies that have customer service people who love people provide the best service in the world.”

If you want to improve your company’s customer service, hire people who like people. Perhaps it’s time to replace the grumpy old-timers who act like they are being interrupted from something important when interacting with customers.

Many years ago, my wife and I spent a day visiting several kitchen and bath places to get ideas for updating our master bathroom. One of our first stops was a visit to one of the better-known and prominent bathroom remodeler’s showroom.

After we entered the overly large lobby area, we waited nearly ten minutes for the receptionist to interrupt what she was doing and notice us. I suspect that she noticed us more quickly than she might have otherwise since I walked up close to her desk after she ignored us for so long. I fully stretched out my six-foot four-inch frame in front of her overly large desk counter to get her attention.

Once she looked up, her body language and tone of voice indicated to me that she was exasperated that we had the nerve to come into the showroom and interrupt her day – and possibly buy something. After I explained that we wanted to talk to someone about remodeling a bathroom she said she would call someone but then looked back to the more important work on her desk.

At this point, my wife and I began to look at the beautiful displays in the showroom until a bit later one of the designers came out to help us. The designer was very knowledgeable and helpful and provided some good information on bathroom options. However, when we were getting into the car to leave, my wife and I agreed we would not work with that company due to the grumpy receptionist.

Several years later we began to look for assistance on designing a bar area in our lower level. As we drove down Manchester Road, we passed the design room with the grumpy receptionist. We did not bother to stop in. We did, however, spend a few moments reminiscing about the bad experience.

That bad customer service experience caused us to not buy from them the first time and to not even stop in several years later. Despite the company’s good reputation and the knowledge and helpfulness of the kitchen designer, the grumpy receptionist took on the role of the “Sales Prevention Department.” She single-handedly prevented the first sale to us and any subsequent sales.

It is sad how often we encounter service that is so bad that it prevents us from being a customer or causes us to never come back. Bad service usually is a result of the following:

  1. The person delivering the service is unfriendly. This is a recruiting, or better described, an employee selection issue. More about this below.
  2. The service person does not have enough knowledge to really be helpful. This is a training issue. It can be addressed by properly educating the service people and by having supervisors or experienced people who can be called on to provide additional assistance as needed.
  3. The service people are too busy and do not have enough time to provide good service. This is a management issue. It is impossible for talented and trained service people to provide good service if there is not enough staff. Proper customer service requires enough people, especially at busy times.

Issue three above can also be an issue due to a bad business model – one which does not value customer service. It should be noted that no amount of technology can truly provide excellent customer service. Technology can augment the service model, but it cannot be the model.

For example, we recently decided to look at alternate vendors to use for distributing these Weekly Insight articles. Of the three final choices, only one offered easy access to human beings if you needed assistance. Even though this service was slightly more expensive, it was clearly the best choice because we know that if we need help, we can talk to someone.

More than two-thirds of businesses in the US are service businesses. The key to delivering good customer service is to have friendly people delivering the service. This means that the people whose job it is to be in contact with your customers must be the kind of people who like to interact with people and like to help people.

If you want to hire good customer service people, hire people who like people. If someone is shy, reserved, or grumpy when you interview them, they are not a good candidate for a customer service job or for a job as a server. Good customer service starts by selecting/hiring people who instinctively want to talk to people and solve their problems.

You should be able to tell if someone likes people from the interview process. You should also be able understand, again from the interview, if they are interested in helping people.

However, you can improve your odds of hiring people who like people and want to solve customer problems by utilizing assessments that objectively measure these characteristics. Our company provides these services so feel free to contact us for assistance in selecting people who will instinctively deliver great customer service.