A couple of years ago, I was running a workshop at a major hotel in Sydney. I didn’t have a good experience. No-one at the venue was available to assist me with the room setup. There was insufficient food. And the service was very poor.

Yes, we have all been on the receiving end of very bad customer service. We certainly know it when we experience it and gain some satisfaction from telling others of the experience. But if we receive great customer service, we love it and are certainly happy to repeat those stories too.

I wonder what your clients or customers are saying about you.

Here are five ways that you and others can use to take customer service at your workplace to an even higher level.

  1. Make a great first impression: One of the best ways to make a great first impression is simply to respond immediately to customers. Answer the phone and return calls and emails quickly. Greet people in a warm and friendly manner when they walk into your premises. Use their name if you know it, greet them nicely and smile when you see them. Making a great first impression is part of what differentiates great service from service where you feel treated like a number.

    When I was in private practice, I am sure that many of my clients came to see me partly due to the lovely conversation they had with my secretary while they were waiting to see me.

  2. Give customers a great experience: Can you anticipate what your customers are needing? If so, you might simply offer these things or ask how you can be of help. One lovely person in charge of catering who I dealt with recently while running a function in Canberra made a point of greeting me when I arrived in a friendly and personable way. She checked with me what had been arranged for catering and the break times. She also let me know how I could contact her if there were any difficulties. The catering, of course, was exceptional – with beautifully prepared and presented food provided on the day. I told her (and management) that she was the most pleasant and professional function organiser I had dealt with.

    Management can do their part to help, of course. If leaders can help their staff to be happy at work, this will help create a positive and welcoming atmosphere. Customers can certainly tell if your workplace is a great place in which to work.

  3. Deal well with challenges when they occur: Customers do not expect us to be perfect, but they do expect us to take action when frustrations occur. Here we need to be prepared and clear about what we can offer to our customers – whether this be an explanation, some empathy, or some practical action by us.

    I recall a time flying with my young family when one of our children’s car safety seats was snapped in half while being transported. This could have gone very badly when we were told. Before we had a chance to become upset, we received a very genuine apology from the airline staff, an offer to reimburse us in full for a replacement, and a loan safety seat we could have while on holiday. How good was that?

  4. Exceed their expectations: Don’t you love it when you go to a restaurant and they bring out some complimentary tastings for you to sample? Or you order a smoothie at your local cafe and they bring out some extra smoothie that was made in the process. It doesn’t have to be grand actions to go the extra mile.

    A Janitor Groundsman I know at a local school makes a habit of leaving fresh flowers from the school grounds for the staff in their tea room. A business consultant I know always sends his customers a box of chocolates or a nice bottle of wine to thank them for doing business with him. What can you do to exceed your customers’ expectations by doing something extra?

  5. Stay in touch: People who give great customer service know that it takes less effort to get repeat business from existing customers than it does to gain business from new customers. But to get repeat business takes at least two things. Firstly, the customer needs to have had a great experience in dealing with you. And, secondly, you need to have put in place some way of them staying in touch. Out-of-touch can sometimes mean out-of-mind.

    You might stay in touch with your email newsletter. But there is also the personal approach where you give them a call and ask how they are going in relation to the product or service you have provided. If they are happy, they will let you know and appreciate your contact. If they are not happy for some reason, that is still good as it gives you a chance to work things through.

You would think that great customer service would be important to everyone, but sadly it is not.

This is good news for us – as it only takes some smart thought and effort to stand out for your customers, resulting in them singing your praises and you feeling more proud of the work you do.