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Customer Service Means Actions, not Slogans
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Every single contact your organization has with its customers either cultivates or corrodes your relationship. That includes every letter you send, every ad you run, and every phone call you make. This includes every employee contact, from the CEO to technicians, sales force, support staff, and maintenance crews.

In other words, your business is only as good as your worst employee! It's a sobering thought, isn't it? How well are you training your employees to cultivate your customers? Is anyone too high or too low to count?

Make heroes of your employees.

At a meeting for the Gap stores, Ed Stair, Senior VP of Gap Outlets, wanted to make everyone think of ways to serve customers and at the same time wasted resources that could be directed to customer benefits. He started his talk by saying, "We are here to talk about HEROES. They may be sitting in front of you, or behind you, or they may be you. In the trenches, Gap Heroes!"

He went on to describe how one Gap Hero in the mailroom noticed 7 FedEx packets going to the same Gap location, on the same day, with the same material inside the company newsletter. He repackaged them into one, with directions to distribute at the final location. Making the same observations everyday saved the Gap $200,000 in one year. This saving could be directed into another jeans size not created, 18 miles of shelves to make it easier for us to find what we need, a month more to watch the fun Gap Swings, Gap Jives, Gap Rocks commercials!

See yourself through your customers' eyes.

On a visit to New York, my brother and I decided on a whim to see a movie. It was the last show of the evening, and, though we were ten minutes late, we didn't feel missing a few scenes would matter. (It was a Jean-Claude Van Damme film, not the deepest plotline!) The cashier refused to sell us tickets because she had closed the cash drawer for the night. We asked her if it were possible to enter the money in the next day's records. She said no. After speaking to two more employees including the manager, we left without seeing the film. They couldn't take our money because the drawer was closed.

Had the theater's employees been trained to see situations through the eyes of the customers, we would not have encountered three uncooperative and uncaring individuals. Taking money after the drawer is closed is undoubtedly a nuisance, but it is revenue after all. Obliging customers brings repeat business, and repeat business is what we all strive for.

See your company through the boss's eyes.

One of the goals of customer service training is to instill in all your employees the sense that it is their business, too. Build this sense of ownership by encouraging employees to see situations from the owner's point of view. If the theater employees had had any sense of ownership, they never would have turned down money. Which day the ticket sale is rung up is irrelevant. Taking in money is what keeps the doors open and what the business is all about.

Take the case of a manager for American Express in Phoenix, Arizona. He visited a local mall to buy ten boxes of chocolates for his employees as thank you gifts. There were two candy stores across from each other. He entered the first store and asked if they accepted American Express credit cards. Assured that they did, he selected candy totaling $150. Then he noticed the store had only posted Visa and MasterCard signs. Through the window, he saw that the candy store across the way had the American Express logo clearly visible on its door.

The manager explained to the salesperson that, as an American Express employee, he couldn't in good conscious give his business to a store that did not advertise the card. "I hope you'll understand that I'll have to take my business to a store that does," he said.

Just then, a sixteen-year-old stock boy asked him to wait a moment. The young man ran to the other candy store, picked up an American Express application, ran back, cut out the American Express logo, and taped it to the register. "Is that good enough, sir?" he said. Needless to say, he made the sale.

Now that employee had no long-term career strategy with the candy store, yet he instinctively knew to take the initiative, creatively removing the problem, saving the customer. He also knew that if he didn't act as if his name were on the door... it never would be. The best strategies are usually the simplest aren't they?

Everyone makes a difference. As noted broadcaster Paul Harvey says, "For a company's advertising strategy to work, it has to be handled not only corporately but also individually." No one is too important or unimportant to leave out of your positive PR loop. Seeing your business like a customer and a boss is a winning combination and a good place to start.

Related Articles:

Everyone Represents Your Company
When I was a new business owner I attended a management seminar, the speaker said something that I have never forgotten. "Your business is as good as your worst employee." What a sobering thought.

Where Did The Service Go?
I believe that the majority of the people still appreciate good service when they get it. Also, the more associated items/services they can get at one place, the more willing they will be to do business with you.

10 Ways To Form Lasting Customer Relationships
By placing the customer at the center of all your thinking you create an environment which fosters long term success. A key component of success lies in your ability to generate repeat and referral business, and a sure way to do this is by forming lasting relationships with your customers.

Award-winning speaker and in-demand speech coach, Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE offers fresh, usable ideas on getting, keeping and deserving customers. "Meetings and Conventions" magazine calls Patricia "one of the country's 10 most electrifying speakers." She is the author of GET WHAT YOU WANT, MAKE IT--SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO FAKE IT, and many best- selling audio and video programs. For more information, contact PFripp@fripp.com, (800) 634-3035, (415) 753-6556, http://www.fripp.com

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