THE BLOG
03/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Customer Service Made Simple

Did you know...The average business never hears from 96% of unhappy customers. For every complaint received there are in fact 26 customers with problems, 6 of which are considered serious. An average customer with a problem tells 9-10 others, 13% tell 20 or more. - Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D.

Good help is hard to find. I stood there in utter amazement as the woman to whom I was trying to hand my money, answered a ringing phone and then, instead of putting the caller on hold, told me to wait until she finished the call. If the check had not already been written and had the event not been a fundraiser for a non-profit organization, I would have walked away. As I have said time and time again, etiquette is not rocket science, but it does require a bit of thought. Given the economy, businesses need to keep the customers they have and employees should work to keep their jobs. Here are some small steps that make a big difference in business.

I Am Invisible ~ Even if you can not assist the customer immediately, eye contact will let the customer know that you are aware that he/she is there.

Take A Number ~ Customers should be assisted in the order that they arrived. And those customers who took the time to come in person should be assisted before those who call on the telephone.

Ask The Question ~ If you work in a place of business, the customer service question is "How may I help you?" If you work in a retail establishment, the customer service question is "May I help you?" The second question allows for the possibility of browsing, the first does not.

Soft Sell Me ~ Any "special" offer that expires within 24 hours is clearly a pressure scam. If you are forcing the customer to make a quick decision, the customer can assume there is something about the product that you are hoping they will not discover.

Acknowledge and Empathize ~ Not all customers are as polite as they should be to you. With that said, a smile and a kind word can help defuse a situation. If the customer becomes abusive, then seek help from a manager; do not respond in kind.

Always Accessorize ~ You know the product better than the customer. If there is something that matches, something that will help the item last longer, or something that will make the customer's life easier, please say so.

Don't Look Down ~ You may be working for the chicest restaurant in town, but the customer is still the reason why you receive your salary. Please don't assume a snooty attitude.

Privacy Please ~ By looking at the customer's purchases you may be able to deduce a good deal about the customer. And maybe you can... but please do not pry by asking personal questions.

Dozens and Dozens ~ The marketing adage is that a happy customer may tell one or two of their friends. But an unhappy customer tells, on average, 11 others. So for every one customer who is treated badly, there are a dozen people who have discussed the experience. Being polite is your best marketing tool.

Thank Me ~ After the customer has patronized your establishment, do thank him/her for the business. This is not the same as "Here ya go," or instructing the customer to "Have a nice day." A simple thank you, with a smile thrown in, will suffice.

Exceed Expectations ~ At some point, customers may appear so exasperated that even the smallest gesture can create customer loyalty. Going even the smallest of extra steps helps to create feelings of good will as well as happy customers.


Jodi R. R. Smith is a nationally known etiquette expert and author. To email your etiquette emergency, click to www.Mannersmith.com. Copyright © 1996-2009 Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce, copy or distribute this newsletter as long as this copyright and full information about contacting the author is attached.