Improving Customer Service

Issue # 9 of 70 

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

Tools Of Customer Service

Like every facet of life, problems exist. But like a bad western when the hero comes rushing in to save the fair damsel, tools exist to help gun down those problems. Customer service is no exception.

Some of the customer service tools that we all know but may have forgotten because they are so common, are important because they work. Many of these tools cost relatively little, with some requiring only an investment of time.

In fact, some of these may not even be thought to be tools. However, I would have to disagree. Anything that can raise the bar of customer service is indeed a tool.

Internal Tools:

  • Mission statement - Do you know it? Is it still relevant? Often forgotten after being written, the mission statement can be a powerful tool to keep the company grounded.
  • Turnover - Do you keep track of this key indicator? This is a fantastic yardstick for measuring the satisfaction/ loyalty of employees and management. Remember, new hire recruitment and training is expensive along with the drop in performance that usually occurs during this process.
  • Benefits - Is your benefit package comparable to your industry? Is it comparable to the local alternatives (not necessarily in your industry) where your employees might also work?
  • Leadership - Is your company leadership seen by employees as visible or aloof?

Employees: If your employees aren't satisfied, your customers won't be, either. Here are some tools that may already be in your belt!

  • Quality circles/Focus groups -- A wonderful way to solve problems while fostering employee ownership.
  • Employee, management attitude surveys -- Done right, this is seen as a tremendous developmental tool for both employees and management. Done badly, it can be disastrous.
  • Employee suggestions -- Many companies use the number of employee suggestions as one of the best indicators of employee morale and the performance level of management.

Customers: How determined are you to get valid, objective feedback from your customers and to stay in tune with them?

  • Feedback - 800 numbers, comment cards are all examples of customer feedback. What happens when you receive them? Immediate action is required.
  • Customer surveys - When was the last time your company conducted a customer survey to find out their perceptions? Oh.
  • Guarantees - Are your guarantees on a par with your competition? Are they better? Are they quick, painless and really customer friendly?


  • Outside consultants/Audits - When was the last time you really looked at the policies and procedures of your company? This is a great source of objective opinions and new perspectives. This should NOT be used only in crisis situations.
  • Trade Periodicals- Do you subscribe and READ them? If you only get one idea per month between them all, that's 12 more than you would have gotten.
  • Conventions, Associations - Networking and chance to keep up with the latest and greatest news. Support for your trade associations is vital for each industry.

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 #9 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.