Baking for Business

So you’re at the checkout of a large retailer, and your cashier doesn’t bother to acknowledge you as you approach. Instead, he continues his conversation with his co-worker at the next register, throwing in a “Here ya go” as he hands you your bag and receipt.

Or maybe you’re having a bad day and the phone rings. You pick it up, spew a quick greeting, and find a customer with another “stupid” question. As your customer is talking, you’re rolling your eyes and making gestures as if to say, “Get on with it.” Then, as you answer that question for the 20th time that day, your voice sounds monotonous, bored, and annoyed.

With customer service as one of the most complained-about aspects of business and such a significant component of your overall marketing, improving the client-company relationship is a necessity. I witness good customer service at work on a daily basis and do my best to provide it with all of my customer interactions. After all, since I expect it, I should provide it as well.

But still I wonder… Why is it so difficult to give and receive great customer experiences sometimes? It shouldn’t be; we all know how we like to be treated ourselves, so what makes it so difficult to give others the same treatment? Why do we continue to return to places that don’t treat us well enough? Have we grown tolerant of such poor practices that sub-par customer service has become the norm?

It bothered me that, in the past, I had not always given my customers the best experience I could, and conversely, that I had not always had a good one when I was the customer. So I went to my customer service kitchen and concocted a recipe to help me improve. What came out was some sweet customer service, sure to make everyone happy. The recipe is pretty much universal, so please, try it for yourself.

In a large bowl, start with a smile. Sound cheesy? Maybe a little simple or cliché?  Perhaps. But going off personal experience, this is not so easy to do. Make smiling the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Smile at everyone you meet. Smile when you answer the phone—it really is noticeable in your voice. This simple gesture can go a long way. It will make your customers feel welcome, appreciated, and often it will disarm them. It’s tough to be upset with someone who looks and sounds happy to see or hear you.

Sprinkle in some compliments to co-workers. Whether directly involved or not, your team is also a big part of your customer experience. Tell Jane you like her earrings. Acknowledge (constructively) Bill’s haircut, or just wish everyone a genuine “Good morning.” This helps to set a positive tone for the workplace, and when your service team is happy, it’s easier for them to keep your customers happy.

Next, add a finely cured greeting. This is a multiple-step process. As you approach your customers, remember the first ingredient. Verbally welcome them. Introduce yourself. Get your customer’s name, repeat it, and remember it. Shake hands. There aren’t many people who wouldn’t like to be met like this, and it’s easy enough to do.

Stir in the details. Taking the time to make sure your customer understands your product, service, or situation helps in a few areas. It ensures everyone is on the same page, better informs the customer, and thus eliminates those easily avoidable hiccups and headaches that would otherwise arise.

Now blend in a genuine “thank you.” In my experience, this is all too often overlooked. Thanking clients for their business should be automatic, but these two words are not used enough in customer service today. Expressing a genuine “thank you” is another great way to let your clients know they are important to you.

Finally, toss in a pinch of observation time.  This is to make sure your employees are following this recipe for great customer service. Do this when they don’t know you’re looking, and you may be surprised at how different some of them treat your customers. Performing observations and offering feedback will help make sure your recipe is consistent.

Now, mix all these ingredients well and bake in your business. What comes out is a fantastic pan of customer service that moves patrons up the client ladder and keeps ‘em coming back for more.