How do you stand out in a crowd? Try being a servant

“He who is not a good servant will not be a good master.” –Plato

It amazes me how robotic and downright uninvolved some businesses are with their customers. You’ve probably experienced this recently yourself, so you can most likely relate.

Let’s say you are walking through an airport-sized mega mart, and you need to know where this “thing” you’re looking for is located. You find the closest person with a vest and a nametag. Then, you blurt out, ” Excuse me, may I ask you a question?” That doesn’t work so you pull out your emergency flares and try to get their attention before they fly by and disappear into an abyss of buggies and determined shoppers. If you are lucky enough to catch their attention with your emergency flares, they turn and look at you with the disappointment that they have allowed themselves to be “caught”.

Once you have entrapped this said person, you ask nicely if they will lead you to your item. Then you get a quick “Yeah, follow me”, at which point they take you to your item, point, and leave without saying a single word. In fact, they may find it difficult to reply “You’re welcome” when you’ve thanked them. Does this sound familiar?

Why is this happening?

It makes zero sense, and it is killing our experiences with the businesses we choose to spend our money with.  Could it be that we just don’t like each other any more?

I remember walking through stores with my Granddad growing up, and stopping so that he could speak with the produce guy. They actually knew each other by name. Can you even imagine that? Today, this is rare to nonexistent.

Customer service is dying at a startling rate. 

Managers and Companies: Are companies communicating to their managers what they expect out of their work force, and more importantly, what they expect out of the manager? The saying “a fish rots from the head” is very applicable here.

Is the pay for these managers so poor that they take less initiative? Managers of large retail stores can make well over $100,000 a year. Nope, that’s not it.

So what is it?

Perhaps our culture has become so self-serving that serving others is almost impossible to stomach.

Fact: Serving others is a good thing. It’s in our DNA to serve others, and our body actually releases “feel good” endorphins when we do so. As Americans, have we retrained ourselves to only focus on ourselves? Is it beneath us, or are we jealous of the people we should be serving? If you are an employee and you can’t be a servant in your position, you shouldn’t be employed. If you are the founder or leader of a company and you can’t be a servant, you will eventually fail. Guaranteed.

If the leaders of an organization are servants, the company as a whole will follow. 

The great news is there are still servants leading companies, and you see its effect in the way that customers are treated from the moment they walk in the door. When we have an attitude that it’s ok to help another person, EVERYTHING changes. Maybe the employees are actually happier with their job because of those cool endorphins being released every time they help a customer. There are great companies like UPS, Apple, Starbucks, FedEx,Trader Joe’s and many more that understand customer service is one of, if not the most important responsibilities that they have.

Have you ever had a bad experience with your UPS driver? I’m sure a few of you have, but it is almost always one of the best customer experiences. I’ll give you an example. I used to live in a guesthouse in Florida that was located behind the main house. One day I walked out, grabbed a package from the driver, and walked back to the guesthouse. Apparently he took notice, as I never received another package at the main house. From then on, he would walk to the back and place my packages on my porch.  That is customer service.

I’ll give you another example: When is the last time you ran into a grumpy barista at Starbucks? Now I know they are jacked up on caffeine, but there has to be more to their great attitudes than that. There is; Starbucks consistently chooses the best people to work for them.

Choosing the right people to work for you is of utmost importance.

This is by far the most important part of giving great customer service. Look, there are so many unemployed people right now, therefore NO ONE has an excuse to hire a sub-par employee. This will sound ugly, but you should let those who don’t care about their jobs be the unemployed, and replace them with someone who does. Take a little extra time to get to know the person asking for the job. I don’t believe you should snoop through their Facebook like many companies do (another topic all to itself), but make sure you call their references, and set up more than one interview. If you have a receptionist, ask them how the applicant spoke with them when they first walked in. How did that person interact with a person that had no input into whether or not they would be hired?

If you are a freelancer, examine yourself as if you were being given a review. You can even sit down and write a progress report on yourself. Look at the way you run your business from your customer’s point of view. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you giving your clients the individual attention that they deserve? Have you made a quick call or sent an email to check on their business lately? Take interest in your customer as a whole, and you will see amazing results. “Buy-In” to their business, and watch what happens. They will appreciate your attention, and they will reward you by continuing to give you work or patronage.

Surprise your customer.

Do something that is unexpected. This may be sending them cookies, or if you’re their web person, make sure that their Google Local listing is showing correctly. Do something for them for free every now and then…show them you actually care about their success, and that they are not just a check to you.

When your client calls, make sure you answer or return their call within an hour. There is nothing worse than needing support from a vendor and having to call multiple times to receive it. Your client should not have to drive you bonkers to get a little bit of attention.

Authenticity will take you a very long way. 

Don’t waste your customers time by going on and on about your personal life, but there is nothing wrong with sharing your interests and finding out about theirs.

Get to know them as a real person.

Knowing your client will give you all the insight you need to create their perfect customer experience so that you can serve them better.

Customer service is actually a very simple concept. Be a servant.