My 2 Cents To Businesses Everywhere

Customer service seems to be on the minds of everyone lately.  First I posted about my recent not so great experiences, then today Strange Librarian posted on her blog her dealings with Weiss and being rushed out of the store, and then Andrew Shuping posted at FriendFeed his less than stellar experience with Cracker Barrel.  Something must be in the water.

You might wonder what do I know about customer service.  Well I served at the public service desk for many years as part of the Circulation department, I have contact with customers on weekly basis via email when dealing with technology problems, I have to interact with internal customers (staff and they are just as important as our external customers) daily solving their problems, answering their questions and helping them succeed in their roles but most importantly I AM A CONSUMER!

So whether you are a library, a retail establishment, small business or major corporation here is my 2 cents to you:

  • Hire the appropriate staff.  Make sure your interview process asks probing, clarifying questions.  Don’t just give scenarios and ask how they’d handle them.
  • Once appropriate staff are hired, TRAIN THEM.  Don’t assume because they answered questions correctly in the interview they know everything.  Technology comes along that they need to be aware of to interact correctly with customers.  Also refreshers are never a bad thing we can all benefit from that.
  • Make sure your company policies are inline with good customer service.  Don’t tie your employees hands with silly policies or rules.
  • Trust your employees.  You interviewed them, you hired them, you trained them now trust them.  That isn’t to say not to be aware of what they are doing but don’t micro-manage.  If you hover over them that kind of pressure won’t bring out the best customer service in them.
  • Reward great customer service.  Let them know you value the kind of service they are providing.  Anything from an “attaboy” to comp time to monetary rewards – doesn’t have to be big but acknowledgment is always great to hear.
  • Nip bad customer service in the bud.  One bad experience by a customer can multiply times ten and now with the social web it can multiply times ten thousand or more.  Pull that person off the front line, get them back into training, listen to them and help them learn a better way to handle the situation and if worst comes to worst fire them.  Keeping bad customer service employees in this day and age is tantamount to suicide.

I am as loyal as they come when you treat me right.  But all it takes is one wrong customer service experience for me to write about it, tell all my friends and more than likely never darken the doorstep of your establishment again.  Just ask Sears.  Had a bad experience with them back in 1989 and other than walking through their store to get inside the Columbia Mall I have never bought anything from them again.  You might think how much damage can one little person not buying anything from a major company like Sears do.  Well, it isn’t just me that isn’t buying it is my family and friends who have heard the full story – now with the social web that story can be told to many, many more.

Manage This

Howard County Library announced today that their new Central Branch Manager is Nina Krzysko formerly the branch manager at their East Columbia location. First of all congratulations to Nina. Job well deserved.

So why is this big news? Is it because she turned the East Columbia branch around and made it something to be proud of? Is it because she has innovative and creative ideas when it comes to displays, handling communication with staff and dealing with customer service? No, none of that really makes this a hot topic (although they are commendable). What does is the fact that Nina does not have a MLS. *GASP*

I applaud the library and it’s decision to hire a MANAGER not the “top” librarian for this position. Again I’m not trying devalue anyones degree here but just point out that a managerial position is best served by a manager (regardless of the degrees they have) . Nina has plenty of managerial experience from years of retail (Woodward and Lothrop, Bloomingdales), years as manager of our support services and as manager of the East Columbia branch.

Nina sees her role as a manager “to support my staff – they are the experts“. Funny isn’t that exactly what a manager is suppose to do?

Again congratulations to Nina and I look forward to working with you here at Central.

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