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Reviving customer “service”

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Connie’s Corner

After some unsatisfactory customer service experiences this summer, I have to wonder if it is one of those items on the new employee orientation checklist that gets what we old housewives called “a lick and a promise.” Before you ask or make assumptions, only one of those experiences was in Navasota. The rest were at well-established businesses in the twin cities which I thought would have their training programs down pat by now.

One of the first things I learned in my first job many moons ago was to acknowledge the customer, even when swamped. In fact, ESPECIALLY when swamped because that acknowledgement can go a long way in taking the annoyance out of waiting. Being ignored at the door or while standing at the counter lays a poor foundation for what’s to follow, whether it’s a meal, grocery shopping or a repair issue. The doubts creep in…is the food going to be as bad as the service? If they ignore me now, are they going to blow off my problem? Sometimes there isn’t a second chance to correct that bad first impression because the customer won’t come back - and why should they when they can find attentive staff somewhere else?

Over the past couple of years, The City of Navasota, Blinn College, the Navasota Grimes Chamber of Commerce and Navasota ISD, each in their own way have focused on preparing local youth for the workplace even remedying the deficiencies of those already in it. I don’t know if what I’ve seen over the last couple of years is a result of these particular efforts, but I’ve noticed some positive changes at my Navasota Brookshire Brothers and Walmart.

I recall a visit to Walmart a few years back when a young checker carried on a conversation with the checker behind me the entire time while checking me out. She never acknowledged my presence except to tell me the total, and even then, she didn’t look at me face-to-face. Contrast that to now when I’m asked while browsing the aisles if I’m finding what I need! I see similar changes at Brookshire Brothers as well – and not just from the checkers but from the sackers and stockers too.

I’m not saying I’ve been treated badly at either place but whatever the business is, even the newspaper business, we are selling more than product or a service. Lackadaisical attitudes don’t engender loyalty and lack of loyalty impacts the bottom line.

Personally, I think the root of customer service lies in the Golden Rule, being treated how you want to be treated. Unfortunately, there are too many who didn’t get that lesson, so it’s fallen to employers to teach the workplace version, for both their sakes.

At my husband’s funeral, there were several things I wanted to make sure my children and grandchildren remembered about him. One of them actually had to do with customer service in a roundabout way. He truly believed that regardless of where you are on the company totem pole, or the totem pole of life, and regardless of the job you are doing, menial or not, you should give it your best. Make your name synonymous with dependability and a job well-done.

While the reward maybe not be immediate, it will come. And in the world of business, applying the Golden Rule to customer service will pay off for both the employee and the employer.

Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.