COMMENTARY: Don’t serve your customers

At the least, you are probably continuing to read this article because you are outraged at the title. What on earth do I mean, “don’t serve the customers?” But it was not a typographical error. DON’T SERVE YOUR CUSTOMERS. Instead, go out of your way to radically please them.

Alright, hook line explained, don’t feel like I’ve given you a six for a nine. There is a serious attitudinal difference between serving your customers and going out of your way to radically please them. It is the distinction between what everybody does, and what you as a business owner or employee can model and teach your staff, in order to gain and sustain a profitable edge over your competitors. It is the difference between the ice cream you buy on a Sunday afternoon from the cart passing along the road, (dry cone and all), and the gourmet-ice-cream-a-la-carte-on-a-waffle-cone-with-sprinkles that you drive miles to savor because it is not available everywhere.

Granted, you’d think that superior customer service would be easier to accomplish in smaller establishments, because there is a lesser volume of customers, more person to person contact, and more flexibility with the rules, should something go wrong. However, this is not my experience. If a small business, which depends a lot on face to face contact with its customers, does not take the time to train its employees to meet, greet and treat customers well, and to take the initiative in solving their problems, their customers’ experience will actually be worse than dealing with the impersonality of a bigger organization.

Haven’t you ever been to a small business where the employees sit back hopeless because “the boss not there” to facilitate the slightly less than life or death situation that you’ve been trying to get solved the last hour or two? Or a common irritating, response, (one that makes you wish you were super strong Bam Bam Rubble in The Flintstones, with his big thick club)  is that “the person dealing with that is at lunch so call back later.” This, after you’ve spent about five minutes on your cell phone hoping for an answer.

Bigger companies spend more dollars to ensure customer service excellence, have more systems and regulations in place for proper running of business processes, and also provide greater avenues for customer feedback. In a small business, one sour employee who is pivotally placed to help a customer and does not, can make that customer walk out your door. On the other hand, a small business can use its size to its advantage by making each of its employees a radical customer service professional.

Teach your employees to pay special attention to every customer no matter who he or she is. Be passionate about who your customers are, what their needs are and how they can be met, how you can give added value at little or no cost to you, and how you can strategically please the customer to make him or her come back for repeat business. In subsequent articles, we will look at some of the best customer pleasing methods for small businesses who want to get the edge. We’d appreciate your feedback! Why don’t you drop us a line? The email address is ossitrainingnow@gmail.com.

Lisa Dublin is the Director of OSSi, a six year old training company that facilitates presentations, seminars and workshops in effective public speaking, customer service excellence, employee motivation and excellence in the workplace.

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37 Comments

  1. hmmmm
    October 24, 2011

    This comment is @ truefact is true when u go by BEST BUY and PENNYWISE especially PENNYWISE the big fat cashier just sitting there talking to the supervisor thats her neice…..and she dont care if u busy or not for all she care you dont need to buy thats not costumer service at all this NEED TO STOP

    • true facts
      October 25, 2011

      sorry to best buy!! i did not mean best buy i meant penny wise thanks sooo much for letting me see my error so i meant penny wise and yes its that same lady she is out of place

      • hmmmm
        October 26, 2011

        Is a habit she has is when they in a little position they does do that but they must remember that we all get our fair share in life…..i myself stop go there long time…she love to mind ppl business and not her own if a man come there with a woman she forget is cash she cashing and starring down the man……BUSINESS BEFORE PLEASURE…..

  2. amazing
    October 24, 2011

    DNO is there a reason for not publishing my comments?

  3. amazing
    October 24, 2011

    This was the subject of conversation with a potential investor who recently visited DA.He made fun of the poor services.This is a very serious issue especially when our country is promoting tourism and encouraging visitors to experience who we are. Too often we treat our locals like sh__t and such behaviors become habits across the board.
    Training and accountability from business owners breeds success! It is never too late to improve. I suggest a week of customer service awareness promoted by the ministry of tourism in conjunction with the private sector. We should also have random shoppers for customer contact areas to share and improve experiences. Great article!!!

  4. I'mWondering
    October 24, 2011

    So true…every time I go to the U.S… especially NY, i feel like these people need some special training. It is crazy how they do everything sooooooo slow and they are RUDE. Whenever I compare C.S in Canada to the U.S… the latter is LACKING. I always refer to them as being on ISLAND time…

  5. repping hard
    October 24, 2011

    We ahve a serious prob in DA trust me,
    even @ KFC which is an international chain the staff suck hard faces and nasty attitudes the facial expression says, “what the hell u come n do there?” and this thing is pissing me off i’m fed up telling them off and they dont listen they instead answer to you and it ends up in a maypwee. we havge a serous prob i currently work @ a customer srvice based company and i really am conscious of the way i treat customers and so far it has paid off. we need some serious training in DA

    • Man
      October 24, 2011

      exactly whenever I come back to Dominica and see the crappy customer service I’m like ok…. I’m not buying from your shop again

    • Ha
      October 24, 2011

      Well there’s a slim dark little girl working or who used to work there. I am not sure if she is ‘happy”, butone day while I was in the line, she’s calling another co-worker (quite loudly too) telling her how the customer she just served has a nice butt…I could not belive what I was hearing.

  6. seasoning pepper
    October 24, 2011

    Dominica has a bad case of customer service!!! the biggest set starts with the government workers…. they have no form of curtesy what so ever!!!!

    • Anonymous
      October 24, 2011

      hello … i am a government worker for years now and i go out of my way to serve the public..and i am not the only one!!!

      i agree though that some of my colleagues could do much more in that regard

      but the way i see it government worker or not, customer service starts with basic manners which, sad but true, some of us just don’t have

  7. only
    October 23, 2011

    Customer service is almost non-existent on this island and until it is a priority with an appropriate attitude change, good things will not come to DA.

  8. true facts
    October 23, 2011

    i went too best buy to buy some stuff and the cashier was getting gum from her bad and talking i said mam im very busy can u please cash for me u know what she said “dont u see im doing that” i said excuse me? i said thats not the ways u talk to a customer i will put the stuff back and leave! she said well go right ahead put them back i was so shocked i could not believe it! poor service very poor service i never went back there!

  9. October 23, 2011

    DOMINICA people are not the only ones who need that kind of service. customers service are sloppy wherever you go.

    • Marie-Ange
      October 24, 2011

      I agree with your comment but coming from a Customer Service background I personally think that we Dominicans need stop passing the buck and take responsibility of our own actions and make a difference.

      First of all who are our customers? We need to change our attitude against others and businesses need to take pride in what they are doing by instil Passion and Energy in our places

      Visions and Values need to be put in place with clear guidelines on making First Impressions a Positive and Lasting one. Customer Service should start from the top, if you are passionate about what do, others will follow (it should not be all about money)

      We as a people need to start making that difference it is never to late to start.

  10. Born Free
    October 23, 2011

    Great article but it is much tougher to solve here than you might think. Most people KNOW how important it is to treat other people well (in business or anywhere else) and most times the bad treatment they give is deliberate because they do not think some persons deserve good or better treatment.

    The motto of many persons who serve other people is: it is not what you know to do but who you want to be nice and professional to.

    Training can help IF people want or are willing to change. From my observations, most people choose to treat others based on how they view them and if they think these others deserve good treatment. It will take something radical to change these perceptions and behaviours, such as for good and profitable customers to stop patronizing any business place where they receive lousy treatment. I practice this religiously.

    In businesses, it all starts with the decision makers and who and what they value. Their staff practice what they see and are rewarded for…every time.

    I still see the remnants of the slave mentality competing with basic customer service… and winning. Until customers make decisions based on the quality of customer service received, the poor service will continue.

    For monopolies and government offices, the challenge is greater. That is where the media can be very helpful to expose bad and unacceptable service.

  11. Big Bannan
    October 22, 2011

    If you live in, or have been to St. Thomas, then you should probably know the Greenhouse restaurant and bar. Do you wonder why there are not more black people working there? or why are most of the blacks picking up the trash? We have zero concept of “customer service”

    • Pete
      October 23, 2011

      Don’t buy that. It may just be a racist thing to just have whites in direct contact with customers and has nothing to do with color. In my past experiences at Green House, service from the black employees have been exceptional compared to some of the whites, and vice-versa. It’s about people, acceptable behavior and training.

  12. heis
    October 22, 2011

    It is very evident that some are still living in the past where competition was no way an issue,now in 2o11 with so many choices only the trained, proper customer service and good ethics will survive, your workplace or business is what you make it, you are in control, you make the difference with that personality.

  13. FED UP DOMINICAN
    October 22, 2011

    A very well written article. Look forward to others.

    I often wondered if the business owners actually train their employees before they get them loose on customers. Off course I now know that the majority do and that no amount of training with help some.

  14. Anonymous
    October 22, 2011

    It is not just the snall businesses with the problem it is big businesses like the banks, public services etc. I have been to the public service (government department) such as registry,customs, treasury and find staff on facebook having thier cellphone with headphone attached, while waiting for service no one would acknowledge you waiting, secondly using government services is a nighmare you are sent from one department to the next and you have to ask yourself am I in a goverment department? do they have telephones? why do you have to go to and through? can’t they simple pick up the phone and make a call to the department they need the information from? (customer service) look it up.

  15. DA4real
    October 22, 2011

    I mean points made in the article are well noted.

  16. solidarity
    October 22, 2011

    while i agree with ure article,their are customers who come into ure establishment and curse you down,insult u with indecent language,send stuff on you,try to touch you so wat are you saying we have to just stomach all this and life goes on?well am in the wrong field cuz there is no way am gonna take shit from any customer and i mean any.

    • Gwen Fig
      October 22, 2011

      All because you don’t own a business. Always remember it’s because of the customer you exist. If you don’t want to tolerate customers indiscretions then just nail down your business doors.

      There is no ifs or buts, customer service is key to the survival of any business, one has to exceed the customers expectations at all times.

    • FED UP DOMINICAN
      October 22, 2011

      And the best way to deal with customers like that is to let them rant and rave, never lower yourself to their level. showing them that you can shout back, refusing to stand down only makes the situation worse.

    • October 23, 2011

      hellooooooooooo they say customers always right .keep that in mind :lol:

  17. Roger Burnett
    October 22, 2011

    I submitted the following quote some weeks ago in reference to DOMLEC. It should be pinned to the wall of every business establishment and stuck above the desk of every officer in the public sector…

    WHAT IS A CUSTOMER?

    A CUSTOMER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN OUR BUSINESS… He is not an interruption of our work, but rather the purpose of it…we are not doing him a favour by serving him, he is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so…A customer is not dependent upon us – we are dependent upon him…he is not an outsider to our business, but a part of it…A customer is not a cold statistic: he is a flesh and blood human being with feelings and emotions, biases and prejudices…he is not someone to argue or match wits with (nobody ever won an argument with a customer)…A customer is a person who brings us his wants and it is our job to handle them profitably, both to him and to ourselves.

  18. Julia
    October 22, 2011

    And I thought it was just the BVI !!!!!!!!!!

  19. P, Charles
    October 22, 2011

    I am Dominica who live in North America the service in Dominica is atrocious. When vacationing one year, I went to a store and asked the clerk for help, she said “can”t you see I am doing something”. They think they are doing customers a favour by serving them. I said to myself and others why would an owner of a business hire anyone with that attitude does he not konw he is loosing business.

  20. Smilee
    October 22, 2011

    I love that article!! Keep them coming!

  21. INTELLECTUAL GANGSTA
    October 22, 2011

    Absolutely true…I’m incline to agree with you….Very well said.
    With that attitude,the sky’s the limit.
    Aim to please…..Good luck.
    …And all the best to you…

    INTELLECTUAL GANGSTA!!

  22. Satelite
    October 22, 2011

    Very interesting piece of information. I totally agree with all that was said. There is no business without the customer, and one customer may cause your business to fail or succeed if he/she speaks about it. On the contrary it’s up to the employer thrur training of his/staff to determine how many repeat customers he may maintain.

  23. Humanist
    October 22, 2011

    Although it varies in Dominica, yes, I have observed this. I go into a business, and the person serving me has a kind of stony expression, as if to ask why I’ve forced him/her to get to work. If I look at other customers being served to see if I’m some sort of exception, I see it occurring with them, as well. I also have noticed a lack of enthusiasm in the words many of these people use and a lack of initiative in little things that create a strong impression, like checking up on a customer to see how he or she is doing (at a restaurant, for instance). Again, this is not the case everywhere on the island. But it certainly is the case in a good number of places I’ve been, unfortunately.

    It’s strange that when I go to the USA, the opposite is so often the case. Walk into, say, a Starbucks, and you’re greeted with extraordinary enthusiasm, despite the fact that you’re likely one of thousands of customers per day. Go into a popular restaurant and the waiters/waitresses often smile at you and even chat and come back to see if you like your food or need another drink. Obviously, this depends on who is serving you, and I have encountered poor service in the US–and elsewhere–as well. But I can safely generally say that those who serve customers in Dominica could benefit from reading your article, and I’m glad you published it.

    It costs nothing to smile, after all.

    • (.) (.)
      October 22, 2011

      One is more likely to be fired for slightest complaint from a customer in the U.S than in Dominica. I do get good customer service whenever I’m in Dominica. Maybe I just happen to be lucky with my folks.

    • DA4real
      October 22, 2011

      Have you ever gon in a store in the US and the customer service rep says “Can I help you” and you ask “where can I find this” and he or she says “they are all in that corner, if you don’t see it then we don’t have it”
      Is that good customer service? The smile and the can I halep you in the US is just like an automatic phone greeting that’s all it is the real help you is not there as you still have to find what you are looking for yourself in the pile of many.

      Dominica’s customer service does need improvement when you get service from a customer service rep in Dominica it is real.

      Points made in this articel is well noted though.

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