Improving Customer Service

Issue # 3 of 70 

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

Why Customer Service Is Important To You (And Me)

In our personal lives, most of us would like to believe that the more someone knows us, the more that person will like us. As the old saying goes, to know me is to love me.

Interestingly enough, it's also the essence of customer service.

Customer loyalty develops as customers feel a connection with a company. After all, most companies have the same "stuff"; it's the service that causes product and company differentiation.

Well, so what? Why is this important to anyone?

It's important because customer service does more than simply provide a means to drive sales. I like to think that when companies have a commitment to customer service that it raises the bar of competition. The only way companies can effectively accomplish this is through their employees. As the competitive bar goes up, the quality of employees must go up equally.

Having better employees is good for the individual employee, good for the company and very good for the customer. When a company is committed to customer service, its corporate culture will change to absorb this new dimension, first becoming an integral part, then becoming the driving force causing amazing results to take place.

The subsequent culture is automatic and infectious. It no longer has to be forced or driven with monetary incentives or slogans. Employees will demand it of new employees, and the corporate culture becomes even stronger because employees have taken ownership. They know they are a vital, indispensable part of your business.

All of a sudden, the emphasis of the company is its employees because they are the customer contact point. Remember the competitive bar? Employees are now being trained, seminared, and workshopped. It's called development, but it's also called paying attention to employees.

Who doesn't like attention? It is very effective because absenteeism and turnover decrease as morale and productivity increase. When the employee feels special, you can guarantee that the customer will feel special.

The results come from a process of pushing and pulling that raises the bar. While the corporate culture is pulling everyone up to its higher standards and expectations, employees are pushing to meet them. These higher customer service standards produce a competitive advantage that cannot be realized by management just saying that customer service is important or number one.

Of course, all of these warm and fuzzies come at a price. Better employees don't just fling themselves at your door, hoping for the privilege of working for you. Present employees don't just blossom into superstars automatically. This requires work, commitment and focus. But given the chance, employees who are totally unknown to the organization today will surprise you and turn into stars!

So give your employees that chance, motivate them with a common goal, develop them with attention through developmental programs. . .and you will notice them because your customers will tell you about them. At first you'll be surprised, then pleased, then proud!

And if you feel that your customer service bar has been raised to its highest limits, just remember this little anecdote: Roger Staubach, the great Dallas Cowboys quarterback passed for 3 touchdowns and ran for another in one game. Reporters gathered around and said that this must be the greatest day of your life. Roger just looked at them and said, "Yes, so far."

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.

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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.