By David Turk, Founder of Indiana Market & Catering
January 21, 2006
What is Customer Service??
What is service? Unfortunately, it seems that the idea of “customer service” and making a commitment to it being an integral part of our business’s culture, has become just another faddish initiative for many of us. Because genuinely serving others for their happiness has its personal risks: It is easier to offer lip service to its development, instead of allowing it to permeate every part of ourselves, our employees, our businesses and our industry.
The dictionary meaning of the word service is to serve, or to provide somebody with something. But in very personal terms, which is what service as we know it in this industry is all about, means to give of yourself unconditionally, without strings or without expecting anything in return, in order to fulfill someone else’s needs.
How does an organization deliver excellent Customer service? Let these three simple steps guide you:
1) Hire the right people, people with a positive attitude, those with a passion for making people happy
2) Identify customers needs
3) Take action to fill these needs
It’s important that we understand a very important principle, and that is that people aren’t really out to buy products or even services, but rather they are out to fulfill a need.
And just what are those needs? Well, a human being’s needs can be broken down into four categories…..
The need to love and be loved (the need to feel welcome and accepted)
The need to live (live well, the need for comfort, convenience and ease)
The need for variety or change
The need to feel important
Service to others is not a to-do, something to be checked off one’s laundry list of things to accomplish today. It is, however, a personal dedication and commitment to others that must be felt by you before it can exist in the others around you. If you demonstrate that you really care about your customers, provide top notch service, and fill these basic needs, you will distinguish yourselves from the pack.
In my effort to help other caterers become more effective at truly taking care of their clients, I have developed what I call “The Ten Commandments of Customer Service”. Here are the first five; the other five will be discussed in a follow up article.
The (First Five) Commandments of Customer Service
1) Fire Your Customer Service People (and if you don’t have them, don’t hire them) Isn’t it amazing that some companies have a customer service department? Customer service is too vital a function to be left to a special department. Customers judge the service they receive by the contact they have with everyone at your company. So, if a delivery person tracks mud into your client’s living room, your customer is going to remember you as the caterer that tracks mud into people’s living rooms. They will have thought that they got poor service no matter how pleasant you have been with them.
Teach your managers, receptionists, waiters and delivery personnel the four behaviors of excellent service. We don’t “hire” people, we rent behavior. The four behaviors every employee must display to your customers are: Look at them, smile at them, talk to them, thank them. Customers will not take recommendations from unsmiling or indifferent servers or managers.
Every employee who has contact with customers should be empowered to solve problems. Give your employees latitude and responsibility, so they feel that they can take initiative.
2) Rely on Systems, Not Smiles
While smiling and going the extra mile are part of customer service, they are just a small part. The secret to providing good service is the creation of systems that allow you to do the job right the first time, every time.
3) The Answer Should Always Be Yes
Find a way to do what the customer wants. As long as his or her request is related to your business, and he or she can afford to pay for the service, do it.
4) Don’t Give Customers What They Want, Give Them What They Need
Get rid of what you want to do and force the mind in to a new pattern of thinking by asking the question “what do they, the customer, need”. You don’t define customer service, and neither do I. The only people who can tell you what good service is are your customers. If you want to know what they want, ask them. But asking is not enough. Once they tell you what they want, give them what they need. Go deeper with your questioning. Don’t settle for a customer’s initial response. Chances are, with a little investigation, you’ll uncover the need that the client is really attempting to fulfill.
5) Underpromise and Overdeliver
In other words, keep your word…….and more. Give more than you expect in return and make sure everyone with whom you interact feels better about themselves as a result of their contact with you.
So, if you are not prepared to keep your word, don’t use your word. It hurts people when you lead them to believe that they are important enough to expect a particular action on your part, yet not important enough when you don’t do as you said. The message it sends to that person is “You’re not that important”. So, if you tell your customer “I’ll be there at 3 o’clock”, you’d better be knocking on their door at 2:59. You’d be amazed at the results you create. Keeping your word is a discipline, a way of life.
No matter how you say it, doing what you said you were going to do will bring you financial prosperity because you become known as the seller that buyers can count on, and one who makes others feel like their time is valuable. Have you ever heard a customer complain “You guys were too good, the food was too abundant, and you were too prepared”?