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A.C.H.E. in customer service

To Whom It May Concern,

Customer service exists in pretty much every work field that exists. Good customer service isn’t so prevalent, however, even though that should be a major focus for every business.

Good customer service encourages loyalty, forgiveness, sales, and growth– all things that benefit companies. Yet, poor customer service happens far too often. When the focus switches from a client/customer, the business is forgetting who ultimately writes the pay cheques. That has never been good for business.

What is good for business is keeping a few key principles in mind. (And keeping business in mind, we’ll make this an acronym).

Remember A.C.H.E.– Attention, Communication, Honesty, and Efficiency.

Give the customer attention. Everyone wants their presence acknowledged so do that clearly. Multi-tasking is great for getting some regular paperwork done, but people shouldn’t be treated like a task. Stop folding clothes. Put down the broom. Hang up the phone. End any “it can wait” conversation with a co-worker. Instead, look at the customer. Make eye contact. Let him/her know the priority is them. It’s a lot easier to know a customer’s likes and dislikes when one simply pays attention to them.

Listen AND talk to the customer. Communication is the conveying of ideas, thoughts and emotions from one person to another, and reciprocation. Everyone wants to be understood. Don’t just listen to respond; listen to learn. Is the customer saying they want any kind of shirt or are they trying to say it’s for a certain activity? Is the customer demonstrating he/she is in rush? Are they admitting frustration with the difficulty they’ve had in finding a product or with the prices? Customers can leave happy having paid more for something or purchasing extra items/services if the value is properly communicated.

Don’t lie or be sneaky. Trust is the foundation of loyalty. Customers will go back to the same automotive repair shop time and time again if they feel they trust the workers and estimates. If they think they’ve been had (usually a result of poor communication) or, worse, they find out they’ve been had, that customer will not only avoid the repair shop, but warn others to do the same. Deals that draw customers in should be good. “Large selection” should not mean four options. Having a product “25% off” should show what the original price was and that price should not have been marked up. Customers should be able to trust that a business is not wasting their time. As anyone will admit, life gets busy. Everyone’s time is valuable. Sometimes, their time is especially valuable. The simple deceit to get the customer in the door will quickly turn into disappointment, and then distrust. A business could advertise some amazing deals after that, and that customer will still hesitate or refuse to return and risk being burnt again.

No business should suggest it is a shorter wait for something than it is. If it takes 2 weeks to ship, it takes 2 weeks to ship, not 1 week. If it’ll be a 30 minute wait for a table, the customer should not be told it’s a 15 minute wait. One lie makes a customer wonder about other lies. If a waitress explains (communicates) that the kitchen is very busy so food will take longer than usual, customers appreciate that. Again, time is valuable. With meals, time isn’t just valuable but it can be important factors in ordering and medicines. Diabetics can decide on how much and when to take their insulin depending on when food will arrive. Parents will use that information to decide what to order for their kids. Customers with after-dinner plans might decide to share a round of appetizers instead of full entrees. Honesty won’t lose these sales; it’ll help guarantee happy customers who will return.

No business should ever have a “if the customer asks, then give them this” type deals. Once a customer learns that a business has a “special” policy, it erodes that business’s credibility for good dealings. No customer likes to find out that he/she could have saved on a hotel room if they had called the hotel personally and asked. No customer wants to save money or get a bonus service/item only if he/she knew to do something not advertised or suggested. Any business that does these things isn’t teaching the customer that there are different deals available and surprise bonuses; the lesson is that if that customer wants the best possible deals and service, he/she will have to work hard for it.

The perfect balance of speed and quality. Don’t cut corners. Be precise with those corners. Having great speed of service may seem great, but poor quality of service is going to lead to angry customers. The reverse (great service, terrible speed) will lead to the same result. If one is attentive, communicates well, and is honest, the balance is easier to find. The customer knows he/she is important, understood and they are getting fair treatment.
The customer wanted a specific suit for underwater and everywhere else they go, the suits are so expensive and the underwater classes are in less than a month– here’s two options for those suits, this is why they cost so much, it is an investment but they’re durable, and if the classes didn’t mention this product, you may want to get it too since it’ll help getting the suit on and off.
The customer doesn’t bother with much of a greeting, just lists food order, looks to be in a rush– puts in order quickly and accurately (attention and communication are key here), can offer order enhancement (upsell) but something simple and quick, sees if there’s a way to help with production to get product to customer as soon as possible, does not suggest product is ready before it is.

With all of these, there was no suggestion not to be friendly. No suggestion was made to accept rude customers. No suggestion that one can’t find ways to speed up service. No suggestion that the customer is always right. No suggestion that communication is always easy, that understanding a customer is easy. No suggestion that efficiency simply happens on its own– it does take effort.
There are customers who will be disrespectful and they will write bad reviews. Businesses need not cater to them. In fact, they shouldn’t. Let the rude customers go. Let them bother someone else’s staff. Cater to regular customers; that market is much, much larger. Try to make customers leave happy, but never sacrifice for a customer who will happily destroy things. Keep the ones who respect a business and its staff, let go of the ones who don’t. Providing excellent customer service will sort out the two. Focus on the good group, the average, nice folk and encourage them to write good reviews, to spread the word. When the service is great, customers will find it easy to recommend businesses or tell friends about how nice it was at a certain store or restaurant. Because customers aren’t blind and they aren’t stupid. They have probably witnessed a customer berating a business’s employee for something that couldn’t have been helped, or he/she won’t accept a reasonable apology for a mistake, or he/she doesn’t agree with a reasonable store policy that can’t be changed, or he/she is simply acting in a furious rage over a situation that should not ever be treated as such. Too many people have a “the person was just going crazy and that employee was so calm and nice. I don’t think I could have done that” story. If a customer hears a good review from a friend and sees a poor one online, they’ll trust their friend. Good service leads to lots of friends who are fans of a business.

Keep A.C.H.E. in mind, or there might be some business pains.


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