Customer Service Made Simple

I was kindly given permission to repost the following text by Jodi R. R. Smith, who is an author and etiquette consultant at Mannersmith (which has some cool stuff on it). She has written two books: one for men and another for women about the importantance of etiquette and how to be proper. The male version was given to me by a friend (my manners aren’t bad, I swear!) and I decided to send Jodi an email asking if she had any tips for people who worked in customer service and she suggested I use the text below:

Good help is hard to find. I stood there in utter amazement as the woman to whom I was trying to hand my money, answered a ringing phone and then, instead of putting the caller on hold, told me to wait until she finished the call. If the check had not already been written and had the event not been a fundraiser for a non-profit organization, I would have walked away. As I have said time and time again, etiquette is not rocket science, but it does require a bit of thought. Here are a few small steps that make a big
difference in customer service.

I Am Invisible ~ Even if you can not assist the customer immediately, eye contact will let the customer know that you are aware that he/she is there.

Take A Number ~ Customers should be assisted in the order that they arrived. And those customers who took the time to come in person should be assisted before those who call on the telephone.

Ask The Question ~ If you work in a place of business, the customer service question is “How may I help you?” If you work in a retail establishment, the customer service question is “May I help you?” The second question allows
for the possibility of browsing, the first does not.

Soft Sell Me ~ Any “special” offer that expires within 24 hours is clearly a pressure scam. If you are forcing the customer to make a quick decision, the customer can assume there is something about the product that you are hoping they will not discover.

Acknowledge and Empathize ~ Not all customers are as polite as they should be to you. With that said, a smile and a kind word can help defuse a situation. If the customer becomes abusive, then seek help from a manager; do not respond in kind.

Always Accessorize ~ You know the product better than the customer. If there is something that matches, something that will help the item last longer, or something that will make the customer’s life easier, please say so.

Don’t Look Down ~ You may be working for the chicest restaurant in town, but the customer is still the reason why you receive your salary. Please don’t assume a snooty attitude.

Privacy Please ~ By looking at the customer’s purchases you may be able to deduce a good deal about the customer. And maybe you can… but please do not pry by asking personal questions.

Dozens and Dozens ~ The marketing adage is that a happy customer may tell one or two of their friends. But an unhappy customer tells, on average, 11 others. So for every one customer who is treated badly, there are a dozen people who have discussed the experience. Being polite is your best marketing tool.

Thank Me ~ After the customer has patronized your establishment, do thank him/her for the business. This is not the same as “Here ya go,” or instructing the customer to “Have a nice day.” A simple thank you, with a smile thrown in, will suffice.

Exceed Expectations ~ At some point, customers may appear so exasperated that even the smallest gesture can create customer loyalty. Going even the smallest of extra steps helps to create feelings of good will as well as happy customers.

Here is a real life example of outstanding customer service:

With limited time (and patience) for shopping, I truly rely on the sales people in the stores I visit. I try to visit the fitting room once. Whenever possible I will have a sales person follow me through the store while I choose items. During a recent trip to Ann Taylor, Betsy offered to help me find the perfect, black, presentation pants suit. She followed me around the store watching what I was drawn to and what was rejected. Then, as I tried
the clothing on, Betsy ran in and out offering shirts, scarves, belts and shoes to finish the outfit. Once I had the outfit set, she gently reminded me that by adding the matching skirt I would double the use of the jacket (soft sell). Betsy offered to steam the outfit while I finished other errands (exceeding expectations). When I returned, my outfit was waiting for me near the cashier. I paid and left the mall. On my way out, the parking attendant informed me that had my parking pass been stamped by the store, the parking would have been complimentary. I went from being pleased with my purchase to being annoyed that my parking had not been validated. Not having time to run back into the mall, I drove home. People who also live in big cities know that just a few hours in a parking garage can quickly exceed $30.00. So I called Betsy. Not to complain, but to let her know that the cashier should be asking each customer if they need their parking validated. Betsy and manager, Laurie, both apologized to me (acknowledge and empathize). I thought the situation was over. But then, they sent me an Ann Taylor gift certificate equal to the amount I paid in parking (exceeding expectations). As to be expected, I have told all of my friends and acquaintances this story (dozens and dozens). Ann Taylor has a very loyal customer in me.

Writer Bio:
Jodi R. R. Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith, is an etiquette consultant who creates and leads seminars on social and professional conduct. Working with individuals, corporations, and other organizations, she educates in a way that is both instructional and entertaining, helping her clients to increase their confidence levels and achieve success in today’s world. Ms. Smith is the author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman and From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Man.

5 Responses to “Customer Service Made Simple”

  1. Des Walsh said:

    Oct 08, 06 at 4:30 am

    Great set of principles and advice.

    It’s a two way street. Customers who like good service are smart to congratulate the people behind the counter who get it. When I get service with a sincere smile, I like to say something like “You have a great smile and I’m sure you brighten the day of lots of people. I bet they are not paying you enough!” My reward is regularly a Super smile! Last night as we were leaving an art exhibition opening I stopped and spoke to two of the young women who had been serving drinks. I said something like “so many people seem to find serving others a chore, but you have provided great service in such a cheerful way I’m sure you have made the occasion much more enjoyable for many people” – they were beaming! Didn’t cost me anything but 30 seconds of my time and those smiles were priceless. I’m technically senior (not in my mind 🙂 and I admit that if I was younger it might seem like a line, but I still think if the congrats come from the heart they will be appreciated.

  2. Service Untitled » An Etiquttte Follow-up said:

    Oct 25, 06 at 11:26 am

    […] Remember the guest writer post earlier this month by Jodi R. R. Smith, the author and etiquette consultant? Well, I have a story related to that post that I would like to share. […]

  3. Mattg said:

    Jan 12, 07 at 4:30 am

    Do something that they fall in love to your service or product. This is in turn possible only when you care for them.

  4. Service Untitled » Customer Service is Couresty, too. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jun 22, 07 at 10:06 pm

    […] Many people consider themselves courteous when they just utter the occasional please and thank you. Any etiquette book (especially the ones written by Service Untitled guest writer Jodi R. R. Smith) will tell you there a whole bunch more things involved with being courteous than just that. There is a way to be courteous is basically everything you do. […]

  5. Arnell Willis said:

    Dec 04, 07 at 1:09 pm

    Customer loyalty/appreciation is not just the deal that they receive, the product that they want, nor the store’s appearance; it is the personalized touch that matters. Honestly showing sincerity, empathy, compassion, etc. needs to be present – basically treating them as they want to be treated is what really counts. This is what they carry around with them – the desire to have this treatment with every interaction. It is possible to conquer the needs, wants, desires of customers and win their loyalty.