Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Good customer service - let's get back to basics!

On Saturday around lunch time I went to buy a cup of coffee and a Panini at an up market café, usually I will pop into the local market but this time I decided to treat myself and the Significant Other to a sit down lunch. Behind the counter of this very busy establishment, were two young girls serving. There was a queue forming yet the notion of customer service and how not to keep people waiting was clearly not at the forefront of their minds. I am quite happy if a young person serves me particularly if they are new to the job as everyone has to learn and I don’t mind waiting because they don’t know where everything is, or they have difficulty working out how to operate the till. What I do find incredibly annoying, is when they are more interested in the conversation going on with their friend and cannot remember after 1 minute of being given an order whether it was tea or a cappuccino, then move around making up a sandwich with all the velocity and speed of a garden snail.

Make sure you see eye to eye with your customers

Both girls didn’t make eye contact, and instead of setting the milk frothing for the coffee and then carrying on making up the food order, or even taking an order from the person behind so they could keep the momentum going, they stood watching the coffee machine. At this point it was difficult to tell which was making more steam, the coffee maker or my ears, and then the owner came through and took one look at my face and the faces of the customers behind him. Within 2 minutes, he had juggled several orders, got his staff moving and eventually we all got to sit down with something to eat.

I then had the chance to watch the girls wait on a few tables, and still not a smile for the customers and no apologies for any delay. One of the girls had been asked about gluten free foods and clearly was at a loss to know what to do, and at this point the Significant Other had to restrain me from leaning across and suggesting that she go and ask her boss.

The whole point that makes me really annoyed is that young or old, politeness costs nothing, being young and learning your job is fine and people accept that, providing you try your best to be helpful and be pleasant. There is nothing wrong in saying, if asked a question you cannot answer, “I’m really sorry but I am not sure, would you mind waiting for a minute while I go and find out,” and of course we don’t mind. Because we have all been there ourselves at one time or another, first Saturday job, first full time post, dealing with the public is very daunting especially when you are an adolescent teenager.

Good customer service costs nothing and retains a loyal customer

After finishing my lunch I had to go to the bank where my faith in customer service was restored by the positive help I received from an equally young bank teller and again at the supermarket by the young man who apologised for being slow because it was his first week on the tills. Both of them were excellent ambassadors for their organisations and showed up some of their older colleagues as well. Companies spend a lot of time and money investing in products and equipment, marketing and website production but fail to grasp the one simple rule of ensuring their staff have even the rudimentary customer service training.

As this is the difference between losing and gaining a sale, it would seem a small price to pay. Let’s keep rating and slating and between us, we can and will make a difference!

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