The importance of caring customer service

We've all experienced it: the retail sales clerk who rings you up without ever looking you in the face, all the while chatting up a friend on the phone; the customer service guy who won't work very hard to settle your complaint and doesn't care if you don't come back because he has no stake in the company; and the moody small business owner who gives you a good product served with a surly attitude.

If we're lucky, we've been sentletters like the one MCI recently received from Bob Calvert of Clean-Ride Limo, Alva, Florida. Calvert wrote to compliment MCI for quickly resolving a parts problem and to praise the Orlando Service Center and MCI Emergency Roadside Assistance. Calvert closed, "I'm quite sure that you hire and train people to 'Be nice', and it really works. We won't buy anything but MCIs from now on.'"

In addition to making employees feel good, letters like that remind all of us that there are some very tangible benefits to "being nice." Luckily, for most of us, being nice comes fairly easily. Here are a few tips for recognizing good customer service:

  1. Greet customers quickly and warmly, whether on the phone or in person.

    Responsiveness and charm can win you goodwill before you even bid on a job.

  2. Train your employees to give good customer service.

    Oftentimes, training is the difference between good customer service and a disappointing experience that sends your customer packing. Not everyone has been raised to be polite. Write down how you expect your employees to treat customers, and hold training sessions. Role-play exercises can be fun and instructive, while letting employees blow off steam (let everyone be the crabby customer for once).

  3. Treat your employees like you'd like to be treated.

    When you treat your employees with genuine warmth and consideration, they're more likely to turn around and extend that generosity of spirit to your customers.

  4. Make it easy for customers to recognize your efforts.

    Operators with websites should consider creating a page for customer testimonials. Also try to track comments about your company on review websites like Yelp and Yahoo. You can even create a "fan" page on Facebook and other social networking sights, if you think your customer base will respond. Be interactive — thank customers for thanking you.

In the end, following the "Golden Rule" of treating others like you'd like to be treated, both internally and externally, can make a nice difference — both in the way your office operates, and in your bottom line.

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