The Great Recession is lumbering by us, and beleaguered local businesses and organizations that have survived now need to check their vital signs. Finding they are still among the living, they then they must look at their general health. Are all the pieces there? In some cases, no, in others yes, but the pieces may be tattered and torn.
Local business leaders who have managed to survive the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression now face uncertainty – they are asking themselves where they are, who they are, and how they begin to rebuild. And equally important, their employees are asking the same questions.
For the answers, these survivors need to go back to basics and re-learn an obvious concept: Happy customers equal good business. For, without doubt, delighting customers is the way survivor businesses will thrive again.
So, where to start? Begin at the core; Talk and listen to the folks who have hung in there (internal customers). Values, expectations, and business practices need dusting off and reassessment. And because staff, from leadership to frontline employees, shares a common organizational culture, they must work together to define the opportunities that can re-establish legendary business practices and Customer Service Excellence.
Once everyone is on board with the idea of moving forward in the same direction, they can agree on how best to “wow” customers at every opportunity. To this, I offer seven principles to begin discussions of customer service awareness.
Coincidently, they begin with the first seven entries of the Pear Tree Customer Care ABCs. Veteran employees will know them, but newer hires may not. What might seem second nature to many are “A-ha” moments for the inexperienced.
Pear Tree Customer Care ABCs, From A to G:
A. Appreciate that Appearance Counts. First impressions occur in the first three seconds of personal interaction. Your appearance is very important.
B. Be Bright. Attentive, engaged, hospitable, positive and responsive interactions build good relationships. Good relationships build repeat business. Repeat business builds financial success.
C. Communicate Clearly. Approachable body language, effective intonation and active listening will give and get the message right. No misunderstandings means no misgivings.
D. Discern the Details. In an airplane, old food stuck on the tray tables can translate into concern about general aircraft maintenance, and that can translate into questioning aircraft safety, which can translate into “Next time, I’m flying on a safer airline.” Seems farfetched? Not really. People draw conclusions from what they see first-hand, even if it’s a tiny detail.
E. Exude Ethics. Tell the truth, be transparent, do what you say you will do, and do it right the first time. Customers will love you for it.
F. Find Fun. We all know laughter is contagious; so is smiling. People (customers) like to feel good. Happy dispositions create healthier people – studies prove it.
G. Go with the Golden Rule. It’s the same in every major religion known on Earth: Treat people like you want to be treated. Period. It’s so simple, yet profound. Its application goes way beyond customer service – it goes toward World Peace.
These are only the first seven entries in the ABCs of Customer Service – but they provide an excellent place to start! Now, whether you’re an owner or receptionist, machinist or nurse, go out there and lead the way from good to great service, all over again.
About the Author
Barbara Partridge is the owner/founder of Pear Tree Solutions, a business consulting firm based in San Luis Obispo County. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UCLA and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco. For more than 30 years, she served in various leadership and managerial roles for the City of Paso Robles, where she developed her method for revitalizing an organization from within. Now, she’s doing more of what she loves: Bringing out the best in people and organizations. Contact Barbara today for your business consultation at (805) 835-5511.