Customer Service – The Warm and Genuine

I was eating at a very nice restaurant this weekend when the question of customer service came up.  The young lady waiting on our group did everything by the book – made sure that we had water at the table, made menu recommendations, took our order, got the order correct (which seems to be more and more of a problem these days – especially with waiters that are just using their memory instead of an order pad), and checked to make sure our meal was correct and tasty.  (She did a very poor job of following up after we had eaten and disappeared when we were looking for our check but that is not relevant to this discussion).

The problem was that she had no personality.  Although she was professional and did what she was supposed to do, she never connected with us as individuals and we never warmed to her.  Instead of being helpful she came across as brusque, hard, and going through the motions.

Hence, the conversation at our table about what makes up good customer service.  We came to the consensus that we would rather have less perfection and more humanity.  To make customer service real it must connect on a human basis.  The staff and the customer need to make a true connection.

Years ago it was all the rage to have counter staff look at the customer’s credit card or check (remember those?) and say “Thank you Mr. Smith” at the end of the transaction.  We’ve always felt that if that is all that is done it comes across very hollow and perfunctory.

We encourage our staff to greet each customer as they walk into the store.  This shows that they are recognized as a guest in our home (it is also an incredible deterrent to store theft and robbery but that is another article).  If the customer is hesitating in the store we ask if we can be of assistance.  When they come to the counter we ask them if we can get them anything else and try to upsell them with only one item (if they buy cigarettes – do they need a lighter; if beer – do they want chips to go with it?).  After the transaction completes we say “Thank you.  We hope you come back soon”.  If we have the customer’s name from a credit card we encourage the staff to use it but only if they feel comfortable addressing a stranger by name.  Above all, it must be genuine.

The bottom line is that our staff should feel that they are the host and the customer is a guest in their home.  Any interaction between the staff and the customer must be within the staff’s comfort zone – how would they speak to some one in their home.  What we don’t want is a clerk following a script and repeating bromides by rote.  We want the guest to feel welcome, secure, and at ease.  If we can convey that feeling to the customer they will spend more time in the store, the purchase will be larger, and we will have a repeat customer.

Warmth and genuine interest beats perfunctory “I have to say this” script following anytime.