Improving Customer Service

Issue # 27 of 70 

John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self

Why Gruntled Customers Are A Good Thing

Wouldn't it be nice if you had a store full of gruntled customers?


Are you sure?

I was pondering "disgruntled customers" and it made me wonder if "gruntle" was a word. It is, and (surprise!), it is the opposite of disgruntle. According to Webster's dictionary, it means to put in a good humor; as in "they were gruntled with a good meal and good conversation".

Next week we will look at time tested ways to have disgruntled customers, but this week is positive. Let's examine points that will guarantee a wonderful customer service experience and, consequently, gruntled customers.

The overall key is for management to pay attention to the details of customer service. The common, everyday interaction between the customer contact person and the customer is the crux of the matter. Once this is observed, management can begin giving one-on-one feedback in a constructive, instructive way that will be interpreted as developmental rather than punitive.

Believe it or not, your people want to get better. One-on-one feedback is the best way to get this accomplished. Personal attention is personal recognition, even in a correcting manner. It is one of the most powerful (and under used) management tools that can be utilized.

Customer Service Gruntle Points:

  • Double entryway doors should both be OPEN and not have one side locked. Customers won't notice when both sides are open, but they do notice when one is locked. Remember that this is their first impression of your business. A locked door is a dangerous and high source of irritation for no reason. Unlock them, please.
  • Telephone voice menus should be kept to 2 or fewer layers deep. These menus are a great idea, but too much of a good thing becomes a very bad and irritable thing.
  • Customers should be instantly acknowledged. Recognize and acknowledge that a customer is present, even if you're busy with another task. "Hi, I'll be with you in just one minute" is magic.
  • Real live people should take precedence over customers on the telephone. After all, they took the time to park, walk in, and seek you. Don't they deserve attention? Just inform the caller that you're with a customer, you'll be with her/him soon.
  • Please focus on customers while you're talking them. If you don't, this sends a strong signal that they are not important to you.
  • Please look at the customers while you are talking. It is impossible to make a personal connection without looking at your clients! It shows confidence, and will allow this connection to take place.
  • Be familiar enough with the store's products that you can give directions easily (and eagerly) for product locations ("Oh, yes sir, it's down this aisle and turn right, it will be on your left"). If you don't know, find out!
  • Acknowledge the customer even when doing another task. It is especially frustrating when multiple salespeople are present and yet no one acknowledges the customer (VERY frustrating). The priority is the customer. Put aside your other tasks to help the customer.
  • Be knowledgeable of the products you are selling. Every customer expects every salesperson to know at least the basics. More is impressive.
  • Be helpful. Take the initiative. Don't be a slug.
  • Be enthusiastic. Smile.
  • Speak with the right amount of volume. Practice speaking at that volume. Too loud is intimidating. Too soft shows a lack a confidence.
  • Answer customer questions enthusiastically. They're asking because they require an answer, not to have you be annoyed at their ignorance. They're sincere, you be too. Remember that no question is a stupid question.
  • Leave your personal problems at home. Customers don't need nor want to know how you are feeling.
  • Adjust your level of attention to the customer needs. There is a time to be Mr./Ms. Personality and there is a time not to be. Know the customer.
  • Be yourself. Hello? Is there a real person in there? Don't recite. Use the framework your employer gives you, but remember it is important to be yourself. These "rules" aren't there to bind you, they exist to give you limits and a direction for your own personality. Chances are you wouldn't have been hired in the first place if you didn't have a natural talent for what you do!

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

Improving Customer Service #27 of 70: View all in the Table of Contents

For more customer service articles, visit the Customer Service series on the new Sideroad: Practical Advice Straight from The Experts.

Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.