7 Ways to Make Contact in Customer Service

serviceWe all have experiences that have a lasting impact… and that you just know are transferrable.  When it comes to customer service experiences, we are all experts on this… as we are all customers.  We know what service we like…and we know what annoys us.  I appreciate when a team member makes the first move and "makes contact" with me when I enter a place of business.  It shows that they care and where their priority lies.

Here's my "customer service" story;

In the area I live there used to be a locally owned coffee shop.  They were ahead of their time.  Well themed, nice dining area and outdoor patio, occasional entertainment, fantastic coffee... and when they first  opened for business, they had great customer service.  The owner was always there.  You were greeted when you walked in.  The staff always seemed ready to serve.  And they were busy.  My wife likes her non-fat lattes, and being the dutiful husband, I stopped by often.

Time passed. I continued to stop by for the latte. The owner was around less often. They weren't as busy. And it seemed that perhaps the young staff they had were less supervised, trained or directed. They were nice enough, but not as attentive.  Often they'd be sitting on the counter talking with each other.  I was in there often, was a familiar face, and always ordered the same thing… the non-fat latte.  However, I don't remember even once being recognized or greeted with a "how are you doing", "nice to see you today" or a "can I get you your non-fat Latte".  No... I was typically greeted with a blank stare, leaving you wondering who was going to speak first.  Or more often I felt like I was an inconvenience or an interruption to their conversation.  But I remained loyal to supporting the local business... and keeping my wife happy.

Then one day their worst nightmare happened. That big bad multinational corporation Starbucks was going to move into a shopping center across the street. One might think this would have them sharpening their skills to deliver improved product and service.  They took a different approach, launching a campaign to have their customers sign a petition to stop the Starbucks from being approved.  The owner was back around more, and with enthusiasm and energy they communicated with every customer about what was wrong with Starbucks, and the significance of signing the petition.

Fast forward... Starbucks opened and the local coffee shop went out of business.

After hanging with the local place for a while, I finally ventured into Starbucks… and here was my experience.  I was greeted shortly after I walked in and when I placed my order, they asked about me!  Then they did the most low tech/high impact thing ever... they asked my name... and wrote it on the cup.  The latte was a little more expensive than the local place, but I didn't care… they know me by name!

Turns out my wife likes Starbucks non-fat lattes even better.  So I went back again, and again and again.  Within a couple of weeks they don't have to ask me my name, because they've remembered it, and they know what I'm going to order.  Gives them a little more time to suggestive sell me something else.  They have engaged me enough they now where I work, how many grandkids I have and that I like Rocky Balboa movies.  And I have gotten to know them.  We've become friends.  How could I get my coffee anywhere else? 

7 Ways to Make Contact in Customer Service

1. Greet: Customers should be greeted when entering store or prior to ordering.

2. Engage:  make eye contact, smile, and ask your customer a question about them…. and respond to the answer.

3. Offer:  Make suggestions for other items to purchase.

4. Remember:  Remember the names of regular customers.  And if you can't... at least remember that they are a regular customer!

5. Fix It: Mistakes happen. Doesn't matter who's fault... make it right. 

6. Hire and Train: Hire people who like to be around people and that make eye contact, smile and carry on a conversation.  Remember: your employees will never treat your customers better than you treat them.

7. Thank: Always show your appreciation.

Think about always being Pro-Active instead of Re-Active when it comes to excelling in customer service.

There is nothing global, multi national, or large chain about it.  Starbucks simply puts their customers first, hire and trains exceptionally well, and deliver consistently.  If they make a mistake (or if you did ), there is no interrogation... while smiling they make it right.

This is business basics 101…. and as in sports, its the basics that are the most important and often get overlooked or under emphasized. 

I'm convinced that if the local coffee shop insured that every employee was trained and held accountable to treating every customer as their highest priority… they'd be not just surviving... but thriving today.  Why do I believe that?  Because there has been another coffee shop open and and busy there today.

About The Author

ken whitingKen Whiting is an amusement park and attractions food and beverage operator, and industry consultant for improvements in F&B, retail and workforce productivity. Reach out with any questions or comments you may have at: