Volume 13, Issue 5 - September/October 2011

Customer Service
tips for quality service

Basic Brilliance
by Carl Tompkins

I will always remember a very powerful statement made by a very knowledgeable man, Phil Crosby, founder of Crosby and Associates, some years ago in Winterpark, Fla.

“One of the reasons businesses fail is that they quit doing the things that made them successful,” said Crosby, one of the nation’s leading experts on Total Quality Management (TQM).

The majority of the things that make companies successful are the most basic things—things that are commonsense to a new business owner or manager. Categorically, businesses pay a lot of attention to customers around the time of their inception.

They expend a great deal of energy in serving customers and reach out by providing special little things, all aimed at differentiating themselves.

Attention to the Common
It is the attention to small, seemingly insignificant, details of serving customers that has the greatest influence on their buying decisions and brand loyalty. Consider how basic mere attitude is in the scheme of servicing a customer. According to a study completed by the Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP) in Washington, D.C., a number of years ago, 67 percent of consumers don’t return to a business because of a perceived attitude of indifference expressed by an employee. Are you in need of any further proof?

What causes companies to drift away from these basic activities? Following is a list of possible causes:

1. Size of the company: Companies grow from their early-on success and become departmentalized. The people that began the business become far-removed from the public they serve. As a result, they lose touch with customers and are no longer in a position to conduct those behaviors and activities that once made them successful. They assume that those people in the lower positions are doing so. If the top of the organization does not apply a conscious effort regularly to make sure that the basics are maintained, they won’t be.

2. Distractions: As a business grows, so do assignments. More business means more people and more people mean more things to do to manage the business. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve heard people say, “You remember when things used to be so much easier?” Multi-tasking is common and always will pose the challenge of distracting employees from their number-one job, focusing on the customer.

3. Environment: The environment that exists within a corporation will be passed on to all customers outside of a corporation. A lack of training, a lack of communications, no method of recognition or caring for employees, and a poor working environment breeds contempt for a company by its employees.

4. Automation: We forever will be in the people business, yet companies constantly are drawn into practices that eliminate face-to-face encounters. We buy groceries in a self-checkout line, shop online, text instead of talk, etc. Each form of automation eliminates another opportunity to best serve people.

“The majority of the things that make companies successful are the most basic things.”

Basic Courtesies
Following are some simple examples, basic activities and courtesies that are nothing short of basic brilliance. Each can capture the attention of customers as well as their purchases:
• A warm and sincere greeting when the customer enters the building;
• A glass of water or cup of coffee as the customer waits to be served;
• A follow-up phone call to make sure that the customer had a positive experience;
• A free desert as a token of appreciation for the lovely selection of meals the customer purchased;
• The provision of your name and phone number for future needs;
• Showing the customer where something is instead of telling him;
• Displaying patience and interest in hearing the customer’s story;
• Leaving a rose on the front seat of the car after finishing a job;
• A note of thanks (not an email);
• A call to the customer to wish him a happy birthday;
• A handwritten personal note of thanks and best wishes at the bottom of an invoice; and
• Immediate attention.

It most often is the little things that cost the least and mean the most. These steal the customer’s heart, and that is something money cannot buy.

Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for SIKA Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.

© Copyright 2011 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.