Principles of Customer Service

‘Have a Nice Day’ & 4 Basic Principles of Customer Service

This morning I ordered breakfast from a popular chain drive-thru.  I ordered multiple items. Throughout the entire transaction it seemed like the employee was more focused on her computer monitor than me or the food I was ordering.

Despite the lack of warm contact, I could tell that the store manager was focused on and had trained the employee with sales in mind. During our transaction, the employee had included suggestive-selling phrases like, “Welcome to ____, what will you be drinking today?” and, “Would you like ____ with that?”  However, these phrases fell flat because they seemed scripted and lacked the warmth of basic human contact.

After I paid, she handed me each component of my order – two bags and one drink – a piece at a time, with pauses for her to gather the remaining items.  She handed me all the right items, but there was a problem: She did it with no words spoken.  After she handed the last bag, she just turned back to her terminal.

The digital read-out on the drive-thru wall displayed a different total, probably of the customer behind me. Therefore, I guessed she was done handing me the order, but, since I had not checked the bags, could not be sure.

“Is that it?” I asked.

She looked at me quizzically. “Did you order something else?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. “It’s just — you never said, ‘good-bye,’ or anything.”

Her eyes brightened as if she understood my question. “Oh,” she responded, nodding, “OK.”  Then — she turned back to her terminal.

I shook my head.  I had tried to subtly imply what to me was common sense — that she had missed a tenet of customer service — but she hadn’t caught it.  It was not her fault; she had apparently not been taught the importance of a few simple customer-service principals.  And it was not my job to teach her; rather, it is a task her manager will have to do: not just for her, but the entire staff.  (I know it was not an isolated instance because I experienced the same lack of warm customer service at other visits.)

“Have a nice day,” I said, and drove off.

I was soured by this experience where a person could not take a just a few seconds to make eye-contact and say a few words to acknowledge that:

  1. She recognized me as a human being;
  2. Our transaction was over; and
  3. That she wished me a good day.

All she needed to do, upon handing me that last bag, was say, “Have a nice day.” I had been left holding the bag, thinking, Are we done here? Does this have everything I ordered? Should I just drive off with no more words exchanged?

I actually felt slighted and upset. And it made me not want to go back to that location.

Listen to the Experts

Good customer service has always been an integral component to the success of any business, and many business leaders have touted its importance.

For instance, marketing expert Kevin Stirz said:

Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.

Sam Walton said, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”

James Cash Penney said, “Every great business is built on friendship.”

These business leaders understood the importance of making that connection. Customer happiness is far too important to be overlooked.  Moreover, the basic elements of customer service are so simple!

4 Basic Principles of Customer Service

Here are four simple, basic principles businesses should use in its everyday dealings with customers or clients. These are principles managers can share with their employees:

1. Smile!

The importance of smiling cannot be underrated.  Smiles are catching.  Smiles make people happy.  Smiles are the basic element of all customer service.  I do not know who said it first, but I deserves repeating: Customer service means smiles!

2. Look the customer in the eye and acknowledge him or her as a human.

Make a connection and continue it throughout all communications in the transaction. Let the customer know that you care about him or her, that he or she is a person and is important in this world – and in your business.  Simply, connect!

2. Greet warmly.

Next, give each customer a warm greeting. “Hello!” “Nice to see you!” “Good morning!” “Good afternoon!” Before you launch into a suggested sales pitch (i.e. “Would you like to try our chicken___”), first say “Good morning!”

4. Close warmly.

Close each transaction with warm words.  The exact words are not important. It can be, “Drive safe!” “Happy holidays,” or “Thank you – come again!”  But the speaker should sound like they mean them, and they should let the customer know that the transaction is complete. (And, of course, say them with a smile.)

These principles are so basic they are not only for customers but should be used in all communications, such as with friends, colleagues, store clerks, employees, neighbors, and more.  Because they are so basic they are sometimes forgotten by managers who are overly focused on sales goals.  But they should never, ever be overlooked!

With these four principles – smile, connect, greet warmly, close warmly – customers will be happier, and sales will be bigger!