Improving Customer Service

Issue # 33 of 70 

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

Do Customers Get In Your Way?

What do your employees and managers think of their customers?
  • Do they view them as obstacles that are in the way of their real job?
  • Do they view them as evil necessities in getting their jobs done?
  • Do they take them for granted and see them as always being there?
  • Do they say, only half kidding, "if it weren't for the customers, this would be a great job?"

If the answer is yes to any of the above, there are real problems in River City.

First of all, most people, employees and managers, forget what their real job is.  Either to support the customer or support the people who are dealing with the customer.  We all get wrapped up in either the details of our job or the self-importance of our jobs, rather than see the real purpose of all the details.

Once you step back and really look at your job, you should be able to see that your real purpose is to serve the customer.  It is increasingly easy to view the job as a multitude of tasks and not the more general goal of the customer.

We are barraged each minute by memos, phone calls (all urgent), faxes, and crises to fix.  It is no wonder that the customer is sometimes forgotten.  I mean, you'll most likely get chewed out if some of the tasks aren't taken care of in a timely and proper manner, so who can blame the person for "taking care of business"?

But, in fairness, with all the activities that face the typical working person, it is very easy to think of customers as an interruption in completing the many tasks of the job.

It is vital for management to make it clear to everyone that the customer is the bottom line and the reason why everyone does what she or he does.  All functions and tasks are the pieces that make up the greater puzzle of customer satisfaction.  Management must emphasize that the "moments-of-truth", or interactions with customers, are critical to the success of any company.  Drop the task and concentrate on the customer. Make the customer realize that they come first and are important.

Suggestions for ensuring your company is customer focused:

  • Training is important and ongoing.
  • Promotions and incentives are based on customer service and not strictly on tasks.
  • Recognition is given to staff members who display excellent customer service qualities.
  • Management and staff focus their efforts and support on the people who are dealing directly with customers.
  • Customer and employee feedback is valued and actively sought.

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 #33 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.