Friendly Front Lines

Customer service etiquette winners and losers

Business owners and managers spend a great deal of time managing a long list of business functions and directional planning to ensure success. Every year, every month, every day they invest hard-earned capital in products, services, equipment, staffing, training and employee benefits to secure a positive business reputation and a loyal customer base.Roundtable

Yet, every day each of us can share examples from our personal experiences where poor customer service etiquette silently killed—or at minimum, damaged—our confidence in a business relationship as a loyal customer.

It seems like every night my wife and I share with each other the negative customer service experiences of the day—and the frequency seems to be growing. The cause of most of these negative experiences comes down to just plain poor etiquette. I’m talking about a demonstrated inability, lack of personal commitment or lack of training on the part of customer service staff to connect with customers by acting like they even care.

Each one of us can share negative experiences when customer service acted like we, “the customers,” were an inconvenience because we interrupted them; or it just “wasn’t their job;” or they lacked product knowledge; or they just didn’t know how to be respectful to their companies’ most valued asset, the customer.

Recently, a doctor’s office took two weeks to phone in a needed prescription after repeated inquiries. Loser.

Then, it took an hour and twenty minutes to pick up a special order for a home project. The sales clerk didn’t know how to print a receipt, since it was a special-ordered item, but said it was OK since my payment went through. I had to suggest they call someone to assist since I needed proof of payment. They acted like it was an unreasonable request. Then I was bounced several times to other “customer service members” to find the order, who were noticeably annoyed by the inconvenience. Losers.

My wife was trying to buy an item that was in an ad, but not on the display. The staff said, “The system shows we have it in stock, but it must be in the back room somewhere.” My wife said, “OK, can someone look?” The reply was, “There is no way I would be able to find it. There is so much stuff back there.” Loser.

When shopping for a new computer, I was asking some functional questions and quickly determined I still knew more than the sales clerk since he was making up answers as he went along—all while talking down to me for even asking the questions. Really? I guess I didn’t look young enough to know anything about computers. Excuse the DOS command out of me. Loser. I had a little conversation with the manager on that one.

Keeping Customers Happy

According to a 2011 shopper experience study in RIS News, 47% of customers highlight poor product knowledge by store employees as the most-disliked experience when in a store.

When customers first make contact, they will decide in seven seconds from a list of eleven impressions whether they Like You, Dislike You or are Indifferent. The eleven measurements of satisfaction are: Friendliness, Courteous, Warmth and Engaging, Understanding, Responsive, Professional, Knowledgeable, Helpful, Confident, Credible and Cleanliness.

The fact is that a business can do everything right and still be severely damaged for a lack of attention to high standards and staff training when it comes to customer service etiquette. After all, customer service is the front line—the face the customer sees of the company.

While protecting one’s business investment and building and/or maintaining a company’s positive customer relationship, it is always wise to include guidelines and standards for exceptional customer service etiquette on a regular basis.

“Customer service is not a department, it’s an attitude.” And it is is certainly worthy of our daily attention.

Wishing You the Best of Success.

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