If you’re anything like me, I’m willing to bet that you’ve had the unpleasant experience of dealing with a company that offers mediocre customer service. Now I’m not here to name any names, but you know what I’m talking about. For instance, you’ve waited in line to make a purchase and when you finally get up to the register the cashier is more interested in sending texts than ringing you up. Or, you’re stuck in a heated debate with a customer service rep about how your cable/phone/electric/water/etc. company sucks and why you want out. Don’t even get me started with the 1-800 numbers – press “1” for this or “2” for that – what the hell! We’ve all been there, and therein lies the problem.

Since we’ve all had our share of questionable customer service, you’d think that companies would want to improve in this area. After all, retaining customers is a prime way to keep your business afloat and successful for the road ahead. But I think one thing that a lot of people tend to forget, and I know I’ve said this before in previous blog posts and in speeches, is that, no matter what anyone says, companies are not people; companies are what people make them. In other words, if your company’s customer service employees aren’t providing the kind of service their customers deserve and expect, well, don’t be surprised if your business isn’t nominated for next year’s Customer Service Hall of Fame.

But you can’t point the finger at customer service people alone. One reason that many organizations fail to retain customers and garner new ones is the simple fact that the people at the top fail to hire staffers who actually want to serve. And that’s where a servant’s mentality comes in. In my book “Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless,” I talk a bit about having a servant’s mentality, and how some people are passionate about serving others while some are not. Certain folks want to help, and they’re able to put customers’ needs before their own. They’re able to genuinely ask the following questions:

• How can I help you?

• What can I help you with?

• What can I do?

They also don’t let time, ego, success, or any other myriad of excuses to come between helping others. They’re able to pay attention to the people around them and remain thoughtful and genuine when they connect with others.

Sure, this seems like an easy task, but then why do so many companies and leaders fail at this simple activity? I realize that everyone is busy, but I find that those people who at least try to have a servant mentality are the ones I remember and stay in touch with. It’s those companies who have employees who possess a servant’s mentality that I return to with my business.

Luckily, even if your company lacks in the area of customer service, there are a few things you can do to improve:

  1. Actually listen to the customer. It’s so easy to interrupt when someone else is speaking. I admit there are times when I want to do so, especially when I have an important point to make. However, when a disgruntled customer has a complaint, the last thing you want to do is butt in while they’re making their point. So take a deep breath, bite your tongue, and really listen to what they’re saying. A lot of times a problem can be resolved once you understand the situation and have heard the other person’s point.
  2. Put a customer’s needs before your own. We’ve all heard the saying, “the customer is always right.” And there’s a lot of truth behind it. When I have a complaint and I’m explaining the situation to an employee, the last thing I want is to have to argue my side of the story. I want to be respected and know that the employee is hearing me out, and isn’t acting defensive in the process. But I do want to point out that it’s important that you as a customer make sure your complaint is valid. Don’t call over the waiter and tell him that your food was inedible when you’ve practically licked your plate clean. That one is on you, my friend.
  3. Make sure customers think they’re No. 1. Whether you’re a cashier and the checkout line is so backed up that it wraps halfway through the store, or you’re a receptionist and all of your company’s phone lines are blowing up, remember that the customer you’re dealing with right this very second should be your focus. Make this person know that his or her business is important and that they’re not just a number. Clients remember when they’ve had a good business transaction, and they’re more likely to come back to your company when they’re ready to do business again.

In review, we all like to be treated fairly and with the respect we deserve. If you’re providing a service, don’t let a bad moment create a bad experience with a potential customer, which could very well be their last transaction with your company. If you’re a customer, calmly explain the problem. The person on the other side of the counter, or phone, is there to help you. Let them!

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