Customer service is an elusive concept. Consumers expect it. Businesses constantly look for ways to provide the kind of service that will draw and keep customer loyalty. There have been volumes of books written and thousands of seminars given to offer the magical key to customer service. But, really, what is customer service?
As a trainer for the retail and hospitality industry, over the years I have come to realize that customer service is a package deal. In order to be effective, it has to be part of the business environment and valued by consumers. Customer service starts with small actions and builds to become part of the overall business environment, so pervasive that consumers begin to take for granted the excellent service they receive.
Communication between service people and their customers is a prime example. Last year, my husband and I travelled to Victoria, British Columbia, for a two-day business trip. We reserved a hotel based only on the convenient location and price point, and travelled to Victoria via ferry from Port Angeles.
When I picked up the reserved ferry tickets, I thanked the clerk. With a smile, she said, “No problem.” It’s common to hear that response these days. I usually don’t think about it either way, but I don’t see it as part of a customer service package.
You Are Welcome
When we disembarked from the ferry, we talked to a customer service person at the dock to get directions to the motel, which was within walking distance. He was quite eager to show us the way, taking us to the curb and pointing to the location, just two blocks down the street. We thanked him, and his cheery response was, “You’re Welcome. Have a nice stay.” I felt energized by this man’s eagerness and polite manner. I felt welcome to Victoria, and remembered why we make regular vacation trips to the town.
We walked down to the hotel and entered a lovely Victoria home that had been turned into a Bed and Breakfast unit. When we made the reservation, we hadn’t realized that it would be this elegant and welcoming. But, how about the customer service? We were not disappointed.
We had taken the early ferry and arrived in the late morning, four hours before the hotel check-in time. We figured we could store our baggage and tour town until check-in. But our room had just been cleaned, so we were allowed to settle early in our room, without penalty. The desk clerk was well versed in the sites around Victoria and suggested some locations for us to visit between our business meetings. We also asked for additional ice and soda for our room, an extra blanket and a couple more pillows. They were delivered promptly to our room.
As we left the hotel to go to our meeting, we gave our desk clerk a tip and a rousing “Thank you!” for all the great service. His response was, “My pleasure!” I was taken back, because the response was so perfect after the excellent service. If he had said, “No problem” or “You’re welcome” I would have considered it polite and gone on my way. But “My pleasure” designated the top of the mark for customer service. He was there to do a job, and that was to be sure we had the highest quality service possible — and it was his pleasure to provide it. It was the best possible response.
Excellent Customer Service Starts With Polite Attitude
These three responses were all acceptable, but for me as the consumer, I recognized that there are good, better and best responses. All three are acceptable, but for a total customer service package, I’m drawn to the third every time. Now whenever we return to Victoria, we stay at the same hotel. We always hope to see our first desk clerk, but no matter who helps us, we always get the same response, “My pleasure.” And it is our pleasure to return time and again.