The best way to respect customers’ dignity is to provide great service

| Tom Bengtson | February 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

One of the most effective ways to live your faith at work is to provide great customer service. The way you show someone you care about them is to give them the attention they deserve as a living, breathing image of God. Too often, customers get treated as mere “consumers,” and the experience is less than satisfying.

Most of us can quickly recall incidents where we believe we have been the victims of poor customer service. I can think of many, but let me share the details of three incidents.

Bad experiences

In the first incident, I uploaded several photographs to a photo finisher’s website. I received an email a couple of hours later telling me the prints were ready to pick up. I drove to the store only to be told the prints, in fact, were not ready. It would be a few hours because they were having trouble with their machine. I asked why they sent me the email saying the photos were ready. They said it was an automatically produced email that didn’t take into account the breakdown of their developer.

In the second incident, I needed 150 two-sided photocopies so I went to one of those quick printing stores and they were able to make the copies while I waited. They gave me a bag with the copies and I was on my way. Later, I looked at the copies and found that about a third of them were copied only on one side. I had to go back to the store and, after I explained what had happened, they completed the job.

In a third incident, I went to a cell phone store to replace a lost charger for my daughter’s phone. I showed the clerk the phone and he quickly produced a box for a charger. I paid for it and went on my way. When I got home and gave the charger to my daughter, she opened it only to discover there was no electrical cord included. I couldn’t believe it. I went back to the store and found the same clerk. I showed him what happened and he came back with another box. This time, we opened it together and checked to make sure all the pieces were included.

These were very minor incidents but they all caused real frustration. As the customer, I was frustrated because each incident was so avoidable. The photo finisher could have sent me a follow-up email saying the original email notice was wrong. The photocopier could have looked at the copies to see that they were all prepared as expected. And the cellphone clerk could have looked inside the box before selling me the charger. Sure, I could have inspected the photocopies and checked for the charger cord myself but as the customer, I assumed these stores would come through as expected. In fact, they didn’t and the impression I got was that they didn’t care about me. It seemed as though they just wanted me to move on so they could get to the next “con­sumer.”

I don’t blame the front-line staff because I’m sure they were doing exactly what they were trained to do. Or more accurately, what they weren’t trained to do. Good cus­tomer service is a manager’s responsibility, and the best way to fulfill that responsibility is to train staff to provide it. Too often, front- line staff lacks the training, ability and authority to correct service problems when they arise.

If you work on retail’s front lines, seek out the training to provide great service. Ask your manager: “What options do I have for resolving customer problems?” A good man­ager empowers staff to dignify every customer with service that says they are special — because as images of God, they are.

Small business owner Tom Bengtson can be reached through his website:

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Category: Faith and the Workplace