February 2009

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Don't treat customers this way!

February, 2009

Hoping to grab a quick meal on the way home, you step through the door of a fast food restaurant. Within minutes your ears are assailed with the booming voice of some disheveled fellow leaning on the service counter. He's shouting to a group of employees loitering in the burger preparation area. His shift has just ended. As the conversation unfolds, you learn unwanted details about his life, his girlfriends, his boss. The other employees, who are still on the clock, eagerly engage in the discussion. After several minutes they glance at you, finally acknowledging your presence but avoiding eye contact. Their looks seem to say, "You're not wanted here. Leave us alone." You observe one employee propped against a storage room door, sending a series of text messages over his cell phone. You wait and wait and wait, hoping someone — anyone! — will take your order. You finally trudge back to the car and vow never to frequent this restaurant again.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common, and not just in the fast-food industry. Of course, in such situations it's easy to focus on the lackadaisical work habits of employees. But often employees fail to give good customer service because they lack proper training, or because they're following the boss's example.

Want to build customer loyalty? Emphasize the following three customer service policies.

  • Welcome them. Never give customers the impression that they've intruded upon your valuable time. During business hours, your time is their time. Be hospitable. Smile.
  • Pay attention. Whether they're walking in the door or calling on the phone, customers don't like to be ignored. Most people will understand if you're busy with other clients, but at the very least acknowledge them. Let them know you're making an effort to address their needs.
  • Don't get personal. If employees must discuss private affairs at work, such discussions should be held outside the earshot of customers. Policies about personal calls (and text messages) will vary from business to business, but such calls should never interfere with the needs of paying customers.

Whether you operate a fast food franchise, an auto repair shop, or a beauty parlor, training your staff to provide exceptional customer service is always time well spent. Treat your clients right and they'll often return the compliment with repeat sales and word-of-mouth advertising.

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