Sunday, October 26, 2008


What is customer service? Is it “I know it when I see it”, or “Treat people like you would want to be treated”? How about “Going the extra mile to satisfy the customer, even if you think they are wrong and you are right”? What if you know that they are wrong?

There have been many studies on this subject. There are also annual awards for the best customer service. For example, Wachovia Corp. has been recognized as giving the best customer service among financial institutions. Ritz Carleton Hotels has been held out as the standard for customer service in the hospitality industry. Likewise, Nordstroms has been recognized in the retailing industry.

Maybe we should get even more basic in order to answer the question? Let’s talk about your everyday events such as going to a fast food restaurant, the “big box” retailer or the convenience store or the movie theater.

I walked up to a fast food counter and started to give my order. The employee is asked a question by a co-worker and responds; ignoring me for the time being. The employee then walks away to help the co-worker. In about 30 seconds she comes back and takes my order, not saying she was sorry I had to wait. What is going on here? Should I have been ignored for 30 seconds, which is a lifetime in the world of fast food? Should the co-worker have interrupted my server while she had a customer? Could my server have said excuse me a moment while I help this other employee? Should I have a problem with this anyway? What is the big deal about 30 seconds?

Let’s take another example. I go to a “big box” electronics store to get service on my computer. The “techie” looks at the computer and says the problem is either 1 or 2. He asks if I have a service warranty with them. I don’t know so he sends me to the “customer service” counter (ten steps away from us) so the customer service person can look me up in their computer. While she is doing this, another employee comes to her and engages her in conversation. I have to wait while they finish their conversation. Then the phone rings and she answers it while the other customer service person just stands there!
I wait some more.

How about when I go to the convenience store to get a couple of items? I put them on the counter. The cashier rings it up; however I have to ask how much I owe as she just stood there. I give her the money; she takes it; all the while talking to another employee standing next to her. She doesn’t say thank you, she doesn’t make eye contact, and she doesn’t offer to put the items in a bag. I am basically left to fend for myself.

Finally, think about the movie theater. Think about standing in lines 8 and 10 people deep that move with a glacial pace. What is going on up there? The other night, the “customer service” person was talking to the person next to him. Thus, both lines suffered. You would think that the theaters could emphasize a little more speed to get people through the lines, especially when they make a big portion of their profit on refreshments.

Do I want to go back to any of these places? Not really. I didn’t feel appreciated at any of them.

Business owners, remember that your employees are the face of your business! Next, remember that you only get one chance to make a good first impression on the patron.
So, in addition to the technical training, shouldn’t you be sure to give them training in how to meet the customers? They need basic examples of everyday situations and how to react to these situations. When with a customer, that is where their complete attention should be directed. Other employees should not interrupt; but if necessary to interrupt, then permission should be asked of the customer. Phones should be answered by someone other than the front line person. Or, if it is necessary for the front line person to answer the phone, they should answer by saying they are with a customer, put the caller on hold or get a number and call them back.

So, what is the point of all this? I think we have a major problem on our hands in this country. We worry about becoming just a service economy but what if we can’t even give good service? What then? We have to get better at this. Can’t someone give our service people training in how to interact with the Customer?

I for one am going to go where the staff says hello, looks me in the eye, and takes care of my need as best they can. I am not going to go where I am ignored, not looked at and treated as an inconvenience. How about you?

Monday, October 6, 2008


Yes, I am going to harp on good old Richmond, VA again. This time, however, it is going to be the Capital Region Airport Commission- CRAC for short. Surely there is some subtle meaning or double entendre in their acronym!

The members of CRAC are the City of Richmond, the Counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico. These 4 entities and surrounding counties are known for their inter-entity (did I just make up that term?) bickering.

Anyway, I was getting around to telling you about a trip to the Richmond International Airport (RIC) the other day. We decided to take the Pocahontas Parkway route (I 895) to the airport.

First of all, that route is not very crowded once you get on the toll road part of it. However the toll road portion is very short and expensive, especially if all you are doing is going to the airport. Secondly, it empties you out onto Laburnam Avenue and you then have to make several turns and navigate several stop-lights to actually get to the airport.

The bottom line of these comments is that there is not a high speed connector to the airport from I 895. If CRAC and RIC want to be in the big leagues of airports, we need this high speed connector. We need an alternative way to get to the airport in addition to I 64. It also might get more people to travel on I 895 and make it more economically viable.

So, Richmond, RIC and CRAC, get with the program! Join the rest of the “International Airports” that you strive to emulate and build a high speed connector from I 895/Pocohontas Parkway to RIC!


Ps you may think I was scraping the bottom of the barrel in coming up with this posting. In fact, I may have but it is something that needs to be said; or at least I think it needs to be said.
So, I have gotten it off my chest.
Isn’t that what a blog really is? A way for people to say whatever they want to say and get things off their chest!
I should have found this a long time ago as I have opinions on almost everything; not necessarily correct or well founded opinions but just opinions!
And yes, I have added this little bit of verbage just to make this posting a little longer since it didn’t have enough length to it. Just like we all did in school to make our papers more impressive; right? Everyone did it!

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