Good customer service critical to business success

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

Like most of you, when I go to a restaurant, a store, city hall, clinic, etc., I expect it to be a good experience. I deserve good customer service, and so do you.

I personally prefer to do my business locally. Although online shopping might be convenient, I like having personal interaction with a local employee who needs his or her job. I expect that service to be good; actually, exceptional would be more accurate. I understand some customer service jobs do not pay well, but as a customer, I still expect your best. Take up your wages with your boss but treat your customers with pride and respect.

I worked in customer service for 46 years; 24 years as a banker and 22 years as an alderperson/mayor. I enjoyed serving my customers and I was eager to help them.
Sometimes customers were grumpy; however, there might have been a reason. Perhaps they received bad news, maybe they had financial difficulties, a sick child, or an unplowed street. Customer service representatives need to be good listeners and empathetic.

One of my responsibilities while working at the bank was to hire tellers. To me, it was critical to hire the right personalities for the job. During interviews, I paid attention to body language, eye contact and smile. Past experience was not important to me. I knew we could train the right person; it was all about personality.

Customer service training is so important. Someone I used to supervise recently reminded me of a training session I conducted. I asked tellers to put Vaseline on their glasses and cotton balls in their ears. I distributed walkers and crutches to some. It gave them an idea of how it feels to be a customer with impaired vision or someone unable to hear a soft voice, or the difficulty a customer might have doing a transaction while on a walker or crutches. The former teller said the training made a big impact on her and helped her relate.

Like you, I’ve had many wonderful customer experiences here in our community. While Christmas shopping at Body Essentials, owner Kathy Hansen went out of her way to assist me. She helped locate sizes, and she showed me items that paired nicely. In addition, she offered to have my purchases gift wrapped.

When my hubby and I dine out, we prefer to have our cocktail at the table rather than at the bar. When we go to the Studio Lounge, the proprietor always greets us with a cheerful hello, and if there is a table available, he seats us right away. He makes us feel our business matters, so we are return customers.

Like many of you, I am glad to see Chad Kary back at Luigi’s. We also appreciate Kathy who couldn’t be a more delightful and efficient waitress. Sally Jones does a great job at the drive-thru window at Associated Bank, and Carol Bohm always makes one feel welcome at Walmart. Sharon and Britt at Home Plate have smiles that light up the room. Kathy Stoltenow at ThedaCare is kind and helpful. I am sure all of you have examples of employees you appreciate, and they are often the reason you return.

Not all experiences are good ones. The other day I went into a grocery store. I needed to find a can of green chilies. I saw an employee who was stocking shelves. I asked,

“Can you tell me where to find green chilies?” His response: “I have no clue.” The experience will not cause me to discontinue shopping there, but business owners need to realize every employee becomes the face of the business when approached by a customer.

Businesses would be wise to listen to customer suggestions. One example is an area business that serves many customers who are 60 to 80 years old. Standing in a line for long periods of time is difficult, and numerous customers have requested a bench to sit on while waiting. I have heard customers say, “I guess they don’t care if we come here or not.” Seems to me, they might have a point.

I am a firm believer that when a customer has a bad experience, they should let management know. The problem cannot be fixed if the owner/management doesn’t know a problem exists. Often an angry customer will go on social media and criticize a business. I think that approach is unfair, if the business has not been made aware of the problem and been given a chance to fix it. Customers might forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Please note: My land line voice mail is not working properly.

Answer to last week’s question: Casper (Cap) Wallrich donated the site.

This week’s question: What former business’s ad said “Shawano’s House of Good Spirits Since 1950”?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.

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