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A smile costs nothing - but can be worth an awful lot!

A smile costs nothing  - but can be worth an awful lot! February 03, 2016 by Mike Henshaw

Smile, you're talking to a customer!
For years we Brits have talked about the great service levels in the States, and how bad the British are at serving each other.
And I'm sure we have all experienced great, and poor, service levels in many other countries around the world. So what is it that creates a great service experience?
For most of us, our behavior is directly related to how we are treated at work. If our managers give us a hard time, it's pretty difficult to cheer up and switch on the smile to provide a stunning customer experience.
For me, the answer is to allow team members some latitude to handle customer issues, including problems without needing the 'sign off' from the line manager. The management books call this 'empowerment'. I call it common sense. Employees grow and develop with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and customers love it. As long as some sensible boundaries are in place, it works well. So, where's the problem?
Controlling managers who feel they must be involved in everything is quite often where the problem lies.
This type of management is frantic and short sighted. Staff don't develop, they just keep asking for the answer. Management will always be short of time, and the customers get a poorer quality experience. No winners here that I can see.
A great customer experience is not that hard to provide. Forget the complicated questions that we may need to handle at some stage. Just start with a smile and a pleasant greeting, opening a dialogue, making the customer feel welcome, that you're interested. This applies whether you are meeting them in person or taking a phone call; customers can tell if you have a smile in your voice. In fact, I saw an example recently where the service advisors and reception staff had a smiley icon attached to their computer - just to remind them to smile!
Start like this and we are on our way to a good relationship, at zero cost!
We should always remember that although we see many people a day, and take lots of phone calls, each one of those customer contacts is that individual's unique experience of us. No second chances, it's that simple. Being front of house is a tough job. We have to 'perform' each time the phone rings and each time the door opens. This 'consistent' approach can be hard to achieve.
Dealerships have long grumbled about 'mystery shoppers' that are manufacturer driven. I guess we all have a story about how unfair it was, or how we could 'tell right away'. These non-customers do sometimes get rumbled, but often they don't. They do, however, record what we provide as a customer experience. One dealer staff member said to me recently; 'It's getting like you have to deal with everyone as though they are a mystery shopper'. Well actually, why not?
Customer service standards continue to stretch out and ask more from us. We have to keep pace and keep our team focused on delivering good service levels.
Just remember it all can start with just a smile.


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