Cherish Your Customers February 2008

Last month, I asked you to follow the ABCs of customer service. Did you find out where your customers are coming from? Did you try to find out what they want?
Happy February!
February is one of my favorite months.My parents were married in February and it's the month my son was born! I love the weather, as long as it levels out a bit. And, of course, there's Valentine's Day, President's Day, and Black History Month. What do you like about February?

happy service
Caring for Your People
"You can't take care of your customers unless you take care of your people."
--Paul Orfalea

It doesn't take much to make customers happy these days. We've gotten to the point where any company that simply does what it says it will is considered to provide good quality service. We expect deliveries to be late, cashiers to be unfriendly, and sales clerks to ignore us. With the bar set this low, the good news is that it doesn't take much to become known as a company that delivers good customer service.

Happy Employees = Happy Customers
It shouldn't be a surprise that the best customer service comes from those companies that have happy employees. The worst customer service experiences I've had have been at stores or restaurants that treat their employees as if they were interchangeable. The culture at these places seems to be "If you aren't happy, you know where the door is. You can be replaced."

I worked for a state agency some years ago where this "replacement-attitude" was rampant. Any time anyone tried to make a positive change or provide excellent service to our clients, he or she was told that everything had to be approved by the manager. Approval didn't come without massive amounts of justification, which made it difficult for the employee to get anything else done.

A friend and I were at a chain restaurant for lunch recently. Both of our meals were less than what this particular restaurant usually delivers. When our waiter asked how our meal had been, we explained nicely that it had been lower quality than we expected. Our waiter was a trainee, but knew enough to go to the manager. The manager came to the table and asked what had happened. After we told him, he offered to provide a discount. We thanked him. When we got the bill, he had discounted our meal by half. He didn't have to fill out massive paperwork or call the chain's management before he could let us know he valued our business. What better way to make sure we return?

The case could be made that state agencies and restaurants are very different situations. But the common experience is not the customer in these situations. It is the employee, the person who directly attends to the needs of the people served by the organization.

Being The Best
There are some companies that are legendary for providing customer service (San Antonio's own USAA, the Four Seasons Hotel, Nordstrom's, Starbuck's). These companies not only work hard to meet their customers' needs; they provide a working environment where employees feel valued, respected, and are given some freedom to meet a customer's needs. They are provided with training that helps them understand the customer's situation.

During the employee's orientation, the Four Seasons Hotel provides a room night and free dining for the employee and a friend as a perk to the employee, but also so that the employee can experience the hotel from a customer's viewpoint. If the employee stays on with the company, additional room nights are supplied.

Training and Other Benefits
Training seems to be a key component in those businesses that consistently score high as customer-service focused companies. Organizations that value their employees provide a decent wage, good benefits, and the empowerment to do their jobs, as well as thorough training in their jobs. (
See the list here of the top 10 as ranked by J.D. Power & Associates, BusinessWeek readers and customers.)

Are you providing the training your employees need? More importantly, how are you showing your employees, the ones who have day-to-day contact with your customers, that you value them?

Last month, I asked you what the main event was at the Rose Bowl Stadium between 1903 and 1915. Linda Draper from Bexar County knew that it was chariot races and the main reason was because the 1902 football score was so lopsided. Linda wins a $25 gift certificate from Nicavid's Bakery and Cafe, just in time to purchase Valentine's Day cookies!

Here's this month's puzzle: Because this is a Leap Year, February will have 29 days. This happens every four years, unless the year is divisible by 100, but not divisible by 400. Confused? Let me confuse you even a bit more. What is happening this month that happens in February only every 28 years? The first person to answer will win a $25 gift certificate from Nicavid's.

Roundtable Returns!
By popular demand, the Greater San Antonio Chamber will be hosting small business' favorite networking event. On Thursday, March 6, at the Spire at Sunset Station, the newly revamped Roundtable will return! I've been asked to facilitate the meeting.

For those of you who used to come to this event regularly, we'll do many of the popular networking activities we did at previous events. Come early and meet your fellow attendees. During the meeting everyone will have a chance to do a 20 second elevator speech, introducing yourself and the name of your business. Cristina Ludwig from SWBC will provide information on employee benefits (one of those aspects of creating customer-service oriented employees.)

There are plenty of additional networking events around the city and if you are trying to build your network, you'll want to attend a number of them. This event, sponsored by the Chamber, and open to members and nonmembers alike, has always been the premier networking event.

Our new venue at Sunset Station will prove to be an excellent spot for this event. Parking is free and access to 281 is easy. And the food at Sunset Station is always great! There are also a limited number of display tables available.

Please come and join me. You know we'll have fun!

Upcoming Events
Je T'aime Fashion Show Sat, 2/16, 10 PM More info...
Hospitality Industry Impact Luncheon Wed, 2/20, 12 noon More info...
Business Roundtable Thu, 3/6, 7 AM More info...
Small Business Training February Events More info...
Take care of your people
Thanks for reading. Feedback is always appreciated!
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Crystal Communications
Crystal Darby
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