Being an ex-salesman, I can appreciate a recent column by business writer Harvey MacKay. Mackay knows his way around the business world and has the dough to prove he has been successful.
He says that “Customer service is crucial to success.” I couldn’t agree more. For twenty years, I called on the grocery trade in the Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska areas. My job was to sell packaging products to grocery stores and the warehouses that supplied them. It wasn’t like I was the only one in that business; I had plenty of competition.
In the grocery business, the warehouse buyers are busy guys who don’t like to spend a lot of time on secondary items like supplies. Seeing that situation, I seized upon it by making it as easy as possible for my buyers to buy from me instead of my competition. I did that by earning their trust which is a large part of customer service. They knew they could count on me to ship to them on time and follow up on any problems. My motto to them was simple: “If you have any problem at your warehouse or stores, call me and I will have it handled within 24 hours at the latest.”
My method worked great: I had the buyers’ trust, gave them fast and efficient service, and as a commission paid salesman, made excellent money.
Mr. MacKay’s advice is important to remember. You are in the customer service business no matter what you sell. You may have a restaurant with the greatest food in the world but you will not make it if your service is bad. Even if you have great food and happy employees you can still fail if you are tied down with idiotic rules and procedures. They will irritate customers as much as bad food.
When hiring, always select the “A” players and be sure you have great training in customer service from A to Z. It takes a lot of time but is well worth the effort.
I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and we have a great chain of bakeries/delis called Paradise Bakery. At lunch time people are lined up to eat their great fare. The lines can get long so to ease the anxiety of some customers, they have a smiling employee walk the line giving small samples of hot bread to customers. It’s a small thing but customers love it! That company “gets it.”
One of my annoyances is when a clerk is incapable of counting change. It is pretty typical today with registers that tell the clerk what the change should be. That’s no excuse; I wouldn’t have an employee who can’t count change. However, to top that, one day at McDonald’s, a clerk refused to take a 50 cent piece from me until the manager told her it was OK.
Welcome to 21st century America!