Great Customer Service

We’ve all heard the sayings, “The customer is always right,” and “The customer may not always be right, but he or she is always the customer.” These phrases are attempts to simplify a complicated issue.

Your customers should always feel like they are being heard. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / michaeldb

Customer service is not about right and wrong, but about how the customer feels. In order to provide quality customer service, we need to understand who our customers are, how to be intentional with our words, how to exceed our customers’ expectations, and, if necessary, how to deliver sincere apologies.

Identify The Customer

We teach staff members how to work with campers, but are they our only customers?

My daughter Salem was nervous and excited the first time she went to camp. When we walked into her cabin, her counselor Luna was in the middle of a conversation with another counselor. Both were sitting on beds. Luna looked up at us, smiled, and said, “You must be Salem. You can choose one of the open beds.” Then she turned back and continued her conversation. Gulp.

My wife and I exchanged looks, and went to help Salem make her bed. She met some other girls, and they started talking. When we left, Luna looked up, said goodbye, and then she and the other counselor began to interact with the girls.

My wife and I didn’t feel particularly confident about Luna when we left camp because she had largely ignored Salem and completely ignored us. While Luna turned out to be a great counselor, she had forgotten who the customers were.

Words Matter

It’s important to recognize that the words we select have an impact on the message we are trying to convey and further, the camp experience itself.

For example, one camp I directed had a tiny kitchen. The staff was committed to not serving pre-made foods, but in that kitchen, cooking was difficult. Making pancakes was especially challenging with the small griddle, so the plan was to have campers start with one pancake and then more could be cooked during the meal.

I was not at breakfast that morning, but learned later that day from some campers and staff that we had run out of pancakes and everyone was able to eat only one.

When I asked the head cook, she said there had been plenty of pancakes, and they actually had to throw some away. As we talked through the problem, she admitted she made an announcement about having one pancake.

I asked her what exactly she had said. She replied, “We have a very small griddle in the kitchen and cannot make enough pancakes for everyone to have more than one to start with, so please only take one pancake at first.” This made sense, but all the campers apparently heard was “cannot make enough” and “only take one.”

We could have spent all day talking about “That’s not what I said.” But that didn’t matter. What mattered was what people heard.

The following week, I made this announcement to the campers: “We have been working hard on making sure you get hot, fresh pancakes! Nobody wants pancakes that have been drying up in a warmer for an hour. So, Donna is going to cook pancakes fresh for you! Your first plate will have one pancake per person. Enjoy that first one and then come back for seconds, thirds, fourths, or 55ths. Donna will keep making pancakes.”

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