You're Back

It was an enthusiastic, yet unexpected and surprising greeting I received at the nail salon one Monday. “You’re back!” I wasn’t expecting it because I have a standing appointment there every other week. It was surprising because the person who delivered it was the owner’s four-year old daughter. She’d been at the shop two weeks earlier when I was there. (Mom was having child-care challenges and was taking her daughter to work on certain days.) What a way to train the future generation!

Several weeks later a driver came to my house to pick up a chair I was having reupholstered. He greeted me with a big smile and said: “Good to see you again! How are you?” I’d used the firm about three years ago. I don’t know if he remembered me, my house, or both. But it didn’t matter. Once again I felt good about the recognition I’d received in addition to the great service from the business.

“Have a beautiful day!” is how Barbara and I are greeted every week when we meet at a local establishment for our breakfast meeting. The greeting is accompanied with a warm and sincere smile. This employee, Anna, expects to see us every week, is concerned when we don’t show up, and is surprised when we occasionally meet for lunch rather than breakfast. Convenience aside, we continue to return and spend money because of this personal treatment.

In his book, The HR Value Proposition, David Ulrich said that the work of HR does not begin with HR, it begins with the business. I’d expand that to say that the work of any business function (human resources, accounting, procurement, marketing, IT) does not begin with the function, it begins with the business. “Value” is determined by the customer/client.

Contrast these positive encounters with some unfortunate changes I’ve witness in another place I often frequented for lunch. A self-service establishment, for years there was a manager who would walk around asking “How are you doing? Is everything okay?” Like Anna, she was warm and sincere. She wanted you to have a good experience while you were there and she was happy to see you back, The work flow was fast and efficient – you didn’t have a long wait between ordering and picking up your food. And the orders were always correct! After about 3-1/2 years I suddenly notice that she wasn’t there and the operation was clearly suffering. Orders wrong, long waits, and the staff, with the exception of one long term employee, not friendly or recognizing you. I discretely discovered that there were major management changes that had taken place and the new regional manager was insistent on things being done “his way”, with little regard for the customer. What? “Value” is determined by the customer/client! Convenience aside, I don’t go there as frequently as I once did. The experience is not the same.
Some thoughts on customer service for all companies to ponder – customer service is based on:

• Effective Relationships: Do you leverage formal and informal relationships effectively and with integrity?
• Achieving Results: Do you focus on achieving desired, timely organizational outcomes more than on rote process ?
• Communication: Do you accurately formulate and clearly communicate critical messages? (How well you listen, understand, and provide information?)
• Competence: How knowledgeable and skillful are you concerning the use of your service customer situations?
• Speed: How quickly do you give customers what they want (or need)?
• Integrity: Can customers trust you to tell the truth? Are you there when they need you? Can you recover from any problems with responsiveness, empathy, persistence, and complete customer satisfaction?
• Flexibility: How willing, eager, and able are you to adjust your product or service to meet customer needs, wants, desires or changing behaviors?

Give your customers a good experience. Make customer service a part of your organization’s value proposition and culture. As leaders practice it and lead by example.

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