The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Customer Service and Having a Nice Day

When you hear in a shop assistant say to you as you leave: “Have a nice day”, how do you react. Do you think:

“Thank you for your kind words”

or do you just think:

“This just a meaningless marketing gesture”

Well let me tell you a story from the land that created “Have a nice day”.

We lived for a number of years in the USA and our next move was to the UK. It is interesting to compare attitudes. Our relocation was organised by international removalists. The same company packed us up in the US that unpacked us in the UK, using local staff in each case.

After living in the US for 3 years, we had collected a lot of stuff. So much stuff in fact, it took three days to pack up everything, which gave us an opportunity to see how the employees of this company operated.

Each morning, at exactly the anointed time, there was a ring of the doorbell. Out on the doorstep, there was a team of five men, all smartly dressed in their uniforms, with the team leader, greeting us with a cheery good morning.

They explained exactly what the process was going to be, and over the course their time working in our house, they were courteous, acted on our concerns about fragile items, and silly knick-knacks which would look like junk to any normal person, and treating carefully the many, many books we had accumulated- which were real treasures for my wife. They also left the house each day as tidy as you could it expect it to be- with all rubbish removed.

At any time if they had concerns about the best way of managing something, they politely asked us how we would like it handled. During this stressful time for the whole family, these men made the whole process as painless as possible. Would I recommend them? Wholeheartedly, but with one reservation….

In the UK it was another story. Remember, this was the same company, but with UK staff.

Each day, the staff were late. They always had an excuse, it was those incompetents in head office. They were always taking breaks. They would disappear without notice. Half the team would be absent. There would be different people on different days. There was swearing (although not directly at us- but there was mutterings under their breath). There was resentment at the amount of stuff we had. There were breakages- things that crossed thousands of miles intact, were broken by rough treatment during unpacking. There was knocking off early, and leaving the house a mess. There was no communication on what would happen the next day.

The big difference between the two countries was attitude. In one, the staff new that customer service was part of their job. In the other, they were just putting in the hours. So my reservation in using this company, would be to steer clear of its UK branch.

I soon noticed this attitude in other employees I dealt with in other businesses in the UK. It was quite pervasive. I reached a conclusion about the attitude about the two cultures and my reaction as a customer to that attitude:

I preferred to be told: “Have a nice day” by someone that doesn’t mean it, than to be told; “Sod Off!” by someone who does.

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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Anonymous said...

Having just spent a month in the US, I can't agree more about their attitude of service to the customer. We often came across sales assistants who went the extra mile. Our impression was that it is a country where a high standard of excellence and also entrepreneurship is encouraged.

Anonymous said...

I lately read a piece of business material that suggested a level of arrogance toward the customer to keep expectations at arms length. This has some merit but I'm unsure of the exact implementation. Coming from a life in retail and absolute customer service I was jealous of the franchises that would enter our market with half the product and less of the expertise and none of the answers to customers questions - I think really I was jealous that customers expected no answers from a franchise and all the answers from us but gave the franchise half the market because of positioning or conveinience. Many of these things had internal paralells with staff handling etc etc. ie. Let me check the manual - if it's not in the manual it doesn't exist.
One strategy I am trying and probably roughly at the moment is directly positioning myself as an open door service provider but put down strict rules to deal with me - while approaching all conversations very customer and service centric directing people toward the website to read terms and conditions and rules of engagement.
I'm finding it is sorting out the tyre kickers (or atleast making them pre-measure their readyness) while I enjoy the lightness of my day to day interactions.

Alin said...

u have a usful and nice post


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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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