Costly Customer Relations Lesson

William Hubbartt
©2000 All Rights Reserved

"Customer Pulls $90 Million Account From Area Bank." The headline was a real eye catcher. Why would a customer with an account this size close an account and move funds elsewhere? As the story unfolded over the next few days, we learned that the Village of Schaumberg was not getting good service from it's downtown Chicago bank. According to news reports, there were too many voice mails, unanswered calls, and slow response to inquiries. No doubt this story spread like wildfire through banking industry circles.

How well do you treat your customers? Do your customers get a prompt courteous reply to telephone inquiries? Are customers handled with professionalism by knowledgeable employees who efficiently help meet the customer's need? It has been said that one unsatisfied customer will tell five friends not to purchase your firm's products or services. So, even if your firm's customer relations practices don't make the newspaper headlines, each customer relations faux pas can be very costly to your firm.

Every organization achieves its results through the efforts of individual employees. So, it is important to get employees to recognize the importance of customer relations. But, don't do like the managers at one company, where employees complain that, "all management does is yell at us to get product out the door at then end of the month."

Certain retail organizations are known for the high degree of courtesy of sales clerks. Likewise, the airlines are generally respected for a high level of professionalism. (The attendant who took my lost luggage claim report was very understanding and courteous; I did fly with that airline again!) So, how can Mr. or Ms business owner instill this same level customer relations courtesy in employees? Here are some tips.

Management must begin be setting a good example. Help out in a busy period instead of always hiding in the office. When a manager handles a customer with tact and diplomacy, employees get to see how it's done right.

Make the customer feel special. The customer should have the feeling that, "right now, during this transaction, you are my only customer and you get 100 percent of my attention."

Be sure that employees receive proper training on how to do their job properly. All too often, employees complain, that they are just put on the job without proper training. The employee who knows work procedures as well as product or service issues is better equipped to handle the customer properly.

Train employees on customer relations issues. Teach employees how to deal with upset customers and how to resolve problems. Include refresher instruction on basic etiquette and communications. Remember that "Please" and "Thank you" are simple courtesies that make a big impression on customers.

Train employees on proper use of equipment, telephones, computers, cash registers, etc. It is very frustrating for the customer who's already impatient to be delayed further by an improperly trained employee fumbling with equipment.

Do you work in a production or other behind the scenes job without customer contact? Remember that work activity flows through an organization. Consider the person or department that receives the output of your work as your customer. Always be courteous to your customer and be sure that your customer gets your work done correctly and on time.

Many of the issues identified here seem to fall back to proper training. Sure, training is costly, and it takes employees off the job during the training period. But, can you afford to loose your biggest customer? And, how many small customers can you afford to loose before you give employees proper training to do their job correctly?

William S. Hubbartt is president of Hubbartt & Associates, a St. Charles, IL consulting firm specializing in employee compensation, employee handbooks, personnel policies and supervisory training. ( Mr. Hubbartt is author of The New Battle Over Workplace Privacy, published by AMACOM Books.

Category: Customer Care
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