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chala

I write this on a concrete bird stained bench in the alleyway outside the
Nassau Airport, into the third hour of waiting for my flight home.
Don’t feel too bad for me, the glorious sun is shining, it’s at least 35C and
I’m still wearing a t-shirt while it’s snowing in Toronto. My experiences for
the past two weeks on this idyllic island have prompted my long planned e-zine
about customer service into fruition.  Nothing is a coincidence after all.
My travel agent’s erroneous itinerary placed me in the predicament of getting
to the airport several hours early (Customer Service sin #1).  Upon attempting
to check-in, I was informed I had to wait a whole hour (sin #2) before they’d
relieve me of my heavy bags. If you’ve ever been to Nassau, there aren’t a lot
of seats to be had at the airport, but I managed to find one where I overheard
an unfortunate couple’s own sad story of luggage gone missing (vicarious sin
#3).
After finally checking in, I wandered into the only bookstore-slash-gift
store and started leafing through a magazine. Before I got to page two, I was
being called upon in a rather stern “Miss!”(sin #4) I had to gawk and actually
say “who, me?” and the store clerk confirmed her target by pointing to me and
saying ‘Read the sign’ which in bold, large letters on the newsstand claimed ‘no
reading’.
Dumbfounded, I tried to explain to her that this was an airport and that
everyone read magazines at an airport newsstand. After her curt ‘NOT in the
Bahamas Miss’, I actually tripped on my way out mumbling something like a very
Canadian ‘sorry’.
The funny (sad?) thing is that I was actually thinking about buying that
magazine or the water or the muffin next to the magazine. However, the
humiliation of it was too much, so I hauled myself to the next store.
This was like the continuation to a whole week full of serious customer
service no-nos. I am a marketer and a business coach but when I’m just a
tourist, I still can’t seem to turn off the brain that keeps seeing so many
missed opportunities to keep that customer the marketing departments spent so
much money to capture.
The snafus began with the five star hotel that refused, despite many promises
to send housekeeping, to take away the giant cockroach that greeted me in my
room (sin #5).  The next customer experience was at another hotel where the
receptionist with the golden heart switched our room from the noisy March break
teens screaming until 4am for the blissful peace and quiet that could be
expected from a room directly facing a disco (sin #6)!
I began to think seriously about what constitutes good customer service not
just in the hotel and travel industries, but for all businesses—big and small. I
thought of the lessons learned for my own clients’ businesses and my
own.
Here’s the best top 10 list of customer service rules I’ve found,
courtesy of Allbusiness.com:

  1. Commit to quality service. Everyone in the company needs to
    be devoted to creating a positive experience for the customer. Always try to go
    above and beyond customer expectations.
  2. Know your products. Conveying knowledge about products and
    services will help you win a customer’s trust and confidence. Know your
    company’s products, services and return policies inside out. Try to anticipate
    the types of questions customers will ask.
  3. Know your customers. Try to learn everything you can about
    your customers so you can tailor your service approach to their needs and buying
    habits. Talk to people and listen to their complaints so you can get to the root
    of customer dissatisfaction.
  4. Treat people with courtesy and respect. Remember that every
    contact with a customer – whether it’s by email, phone, written correspondence,
    or face-to-face meeting – leaves an impression. Use phrases like “sorry to keep
    you waiting,” “thanks for your order,” “you’re welcome,” and “it’s been a
    pleasure helping you.”
  5. Never argue with a customer. You know darn well that the
    customer isn’t always right. But instead of focusing on what went wrong in a
    particular situation, concentrate on how to fix it. Research shows that 7 out of
    10 customers will do business with you again if you resolve a complaint in their
    favor.
  6. Don’t leave customers hanging. Repairs, callbacks and
    emails need to be handled with a sense of urgency. Customers want immediate
    resolution, and if you can give it to them, you’ll probably win their repeat
    business. Research shows that 95 percent of dissatisfied customers will do
    business with a company again if their complaint is resolved on the spot.
  7. Always provide what you promise. Fail to do this and you’ll
    lose credibility – and customers. If you guarantee a quote within 24 hours, get
    the quote out in a day or less. If you can’t make good on your promise,
    apologize to the customer and offer some type of compensation, such as a
    discount or free delivery.
  8. Assume that customers are telling the truth. Even though it
    sometimes appears that customers are lying or giving you a hard time, always
    give them the benefit of the doubt. The majority of customers don’t like to
    complain; in fact, they’ll go out of their way to avoid it.
  9. Focus on making customers, not making sales. Salespeople,
    especially those who get paid on commission, sometimes focus on the volume
    instead of the quality of the sale. Remember that keeping a customer’s business
    is more important than closing a sale. Research shows that it costs six times
    more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.
  10. Make it easy to buy. The buying experience in your store,
    on your Web site or through your catalog should be as easy as possible.
    Eliminate unnecessary paperwork and forms, help people find what they need,
    explain how products work, and do whatever you can to facilitate transactions.

Settling back to life in Canada again, I ponder how much better my time away
might have been and the ensuing word of mouth that is sure to affect so many
people, had they taken to heart the principles presented in this list.
I
challenge you to look at your own businesses in the same way. Whether you’re a
manufacturer, a retailer, or a small business owner, please pause a moment in
what you’re doing and see where you can make a change, even a little one today
to make sure that no customer of yours ever has to experience what I did over
and over again in the wonderful, sunny Bahamas.
With kindness as always,
Chala

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