Dear Jayme,

I continually struggle to get my people to provide good customer service. It's one of my hot buttons, and I'm always after them. Sometimes they do a great job, but, more often, they do not. Any magical answers? 



Dear Mark:

No magic required. You'd certainly think so, though, based on the overwhelming abundance of indifferent, snobby, surly service people. In fact, there are just a couple of things required to make your business stand out.

First-Are you really committed to providing stellar customer service? Because this isn't a slogan, it's a religion. It requires you to believe that the customer is king and your unwavering commitment to enforce this belief across all areas of your business. If you're not a true believer, better to stop now.

Assuming you want to proceed:

  • Make the "Customer's Golden Rule" your company credo-No, this isn't "Customers with gold make the rules." The rule is to treat the customer even better than the way you'd like to be treated. Yes, it's simple and corny. But, if you actually think this way, it works. The desired result is to have customers stunned by your level of attention and service.
  • Create your service standards-"Be nice to customers" is not a useful standard. Specify what behaviors, processes and attitudes are expected for as many situations as you can. Here are a few examples:
    • Meet every customer with a smile and standardized greeting within thirty seconds.
    • Always provide a few replacement parts for what you install.
    • When a service call ends before the minimum time, ask if there's anything else that needs repairing while you're there (making it clear that it's on you).
    • Always throw in something free that's equal to 5 percent of the order/job.
    • Always ask the customer what time will be convenient for him (instead of the other way around).

Ask yourself: "If I were walking in here for the first time, what would absolutely knock my socks off?"  What would make you say: "Whoa, I've never been treated so well in my life. This is unbelievable!" How do you suppose that reaction might affect your reputation in the marketplace?"

  • Lead by example- You have to set a flawless example of honoring the customer every single time. This is especially important when the customer is unreasonable and even when you think no one is watching. If you truly believe in the nobility of serving the customer, this won't be difficult for you. If you find yourself putting on an act to do this, it's time to do some soul searching.
  • Put your money where your mouth is- You can't preach that the customers are king and then have cheesy business practices that don't genuinely serve them. If you smile at them in the showroom and cheat them in the backroom, your priorities are clear.
  •  Hire people who like people- You can't train a sullen employee to be chipper and cheerful. Hire happy, outgoing people, train and treat them well. If they leave your business each day feeling happy and respected, they'll be more excited about pampering your customers.

Good customer service practices are genuine efforts to make the customer delighted (with no other agenda). If you leave the customer saying, "Wow, that was really nice of them, and there was nothing in it for them," then they'll be back (and will tell their friends).

The thing about great service is that there's no reason not to provide it. The cost is usually minimal, and the benefits are enormous. The market has been numbed into accepting abysmal customer service, and that means you can distinguish yourself without walking on water.

Plus, it just feels good to know you're doing a superlative job for your customer.



Jayme Dill Broudy


Construction Business Owner, November 2009