When someone thanks you, the courteous and polite reply is, ‘you’re welcome’. If you hold the door open for someone and they say ‘thank you’, respond ‘you’re welcome’. It feels great to hear it and great to say it.
Take for example the signature phrase ‘my pleasure’ used by staff in genuinely classy establishments. It does sound better than the frequently abused ‘no problem’. Some may argue ‘what’s the big deal?’ However, there is a profoundly subtle difference. The former response reminds employees that service under any circumstances should be regarded as a ‘pleasure’. Whilst the casual laid-back phrase, ‘no problem’ although intended to communicate this, falls woefully short.
In fact, it actually negates the person’s appreciation and implies the situation could have been a problem under other circumstances. Like it or not, ‘no problem’ is a problem. It is a phrase that can sound unpolished and very unprofessional.
The bottom line is that what we say to customers can impact on how customers view us. More seriously, what we ‘don’t’ say to customers - can have a disastrous impact on how customers judge us.
In part one of the above captioned article, I wrote of the welcome letter a guest received upon checking in at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Florida and I went on to explained the benefits of using the 10, nine, eight and seven most important phrases described in that welcome letter, which is reproduced below:
Welcome to the World Famous Fairfield Inn & Suites Fort Walton Beach!
Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, we thought it would be the perfect time to remind you of how important you are to us. Today, we are spreading the love to friends, family and co-workers.
These 10 phrases are an illuminating reminder of how uncomplicated it is to make you, our guest, feel loved.
The 2 most important words: “Thank you.”
The 4 most important words: “How did we do?”
The 6 most important words: “What is most convenient for you?”
The 8 most important words: “I’m not sure, but I will find out.”
The 10 most important words: “I apologize for our mistake. Let me make it right.”
The 9 most important words: “Thank you for your business. Please come back again.”
The 7 most important words: “What else can I do for you?”
The 5 most important words: “How may I serve you?”
The 3 most important words: “Glad you’re here!”
The MOST important word: “Yes.”
We hope you enjoy your stay with us!
The Management & Staff, Fairfield Inn & Suites Fort Walton Beach.
The SIX most important words:
“What is most convenient for you?” It is an unexpected (but a hugely appreciated) courtesy when someone asks what works best for you. Be willing to say “Do you want to change that? Most certainly, let me get you what you prefer!” Accept the fact that customers do change their mind about what they want and when it happens, learn to stay positive even if you have spent a lot of time taking their initial order. Remember, a good salesperson or ordertaker will allow the customers’ desires to drive the eventual sale.
Place the needs of the guest before your own. Remind yourself often that you are there to help as many customers as possible today rather than hope to have an easy day. The ability to tailor one’s sales technique after giving customers a quick read of their intentions is rare or can be more accurately described, as, ‘poorly exhibited by most salespersons’ in this country.
As a customer, I abhor that commonly encountered, ‘hovering-around-in-mute-mode’ aspect of sales staff in retail outlets and can only blame the shop operator for not training staff on the ABCs of customer service. Staff must be able to distinguish between browsing customers who are unlikely to buy things and customers who seem to be actively looking for an item. When a customer seems to be aimlessly browsing, staff must know when to zoom in and ask if he or she can be of assistance.
The FIVE most important words:
“How may I serve you?” This question reinforces your role in the customer-staff relationship. Staff must be encouraged to play that role to their best ability. More than a million men and women work in what we refer to as the service sector, doing everything from checking out items at the supermarket to working in hotels. Yet, though we have a large service sector, we Sri Lankans by and large, sorely lack an accompanying service culture.
All of us have what we call ‘self-worth and pride’. Being unhelpful to others as the mood and inclination takes you is part of your assertion of self, especially if the job is poorly paid and your managers are interested only in how much work they can get out of you. So service-sector employers do have a major challenge on their hands if they want to serve their customers better.
But in the end, the buck does stop with individual workers and the way they interact with those they purport to serve. The first step is a consensus that there needs to be change but we are a long way from that. Why? Simply because there is a ‘long tail of underachievement’ amongst many of the employers in the service industry - in terms of their willingness to train and their ability to attract staff with the requisite customer service skills.
The FOUR most important words:
“How did we do?” Feedback is critical. Your customers who do business with you have a unique perspective and they appreciate not only being asked but would also be eager to share their experience…if you take the time to ask and listen to the answer. People don’t care how much you know, (or what you sell, or what type of service you provide) until they know how much you care!
Unfortunately, the majority of those in the retail and service sector including hotels and restaurants do not bother to find out. They seem to operate on the *spoof Time Warner Cable site and video, which asks customers ‘what can we do worse?’ or ‘who cares’ credo. *A customer, unhappy with Time Warner Cable’s services retaliated by putting up a spoof time Warner Cable site and video, which satirically had a list of helpful facts, such as:
4We have a monopoly in parts of New York City and no incentive to provide customer service.
Even if you report a service outage you will still be charged.
We will set up appointment times that force you to miss work then cancel at the last second.
We will bill you for services you don’t have and fight you when you dispute the charges.
We can record your phone call but you can’t record ours.
If you call one of our customer service experts to disconnect your Internet, we will continue to charge you indefinitely until you return our modem. We will make no mention of this during our phone call.
Our customer service people routinely “play dumb” during an outage and are rude to subscribers calling for service.
No wonder the latest ‘American Customer Satisfaction Index’ ranked Time Warner Cable the eighth worst in that country!
The THREE most important words:
“Glad you’re here!” Never underestimate the value of a smile and a cheerful greeting. Nothing beats a cheerful welcome… Customers who feel welcome tend to become comfortable and spend more time. Feeling comfortable encourages a buyer to relax… to be open and to spend. What’s more, a customer is more likely to return to a place that left him or her with good feelings than one that was cold and indifferent.
The TWO most important words:
“Thank you.” Basic manners...but how often do you get thanked when you’re the customer? ‘Thank you’ can be an incredibly powerful pair of words, especially if the person you’re thanking really needs to hear them, or isn’t expecting them. Unfortunately, we don’t hear it often from those who serve the customer.
One reason for this is that employers in the service industry are themselves seldom shown appreciation by their supervisors or managers and run the risk of never hearing a genuine ‘thank you’ when it’s appropriate. Being appreciated is one of those things that really motivate us, both at work and in life - so these two words positively go a long way.
The MOST important word:
“Yes.” The word itself defines commitment to a purpose and rejects any ideas of laziness, inability and refusal to deal with the requisites of service delivery. The word implies that you will execute the task at hand regardless of what measures you must take. In a society conditioned towards instant gratification and loathe for hard work we must recognize it as our duty to reinforce the importance of eliminating the word No from our vocabulary.
For most people, saying no sounds like total bliss (sarcasm intended). Explains why ‘No’ is the 84th most commonly used word as compared to ‘yes’ which ranks 486 in the list of ‘The 500 Most Commonly Used Words in the English Language’ (based on the combined results of British English, American English and Australian English surveys of contemporary sources in English: newspapers, magazines, books, TV, radio and real-life conversations - the language as it is written and spoken today).
Saying ‘yes’, so long as it doesn’t get you involved with things that don t align with what you need to deliver, is a wonderful opportunity to get to win-win scenarios. Go on become a ‘yes person’!
Bedside manner needed in customer service
In 2005, several medical students at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee indicated that they were somewhat uncomfortable in making early morning rounds on their obstetrics-gynecology service. They were unsure of how best to conduct these rounds while obtaining pertinent medical information. Because of this, the university introduced teaching bedside manners in 2006.
Students were instructed on the importance of the acronym AIDET (acknowledge, introduce, duration, explain and thanks) and were asked to be properly attired and that name tags were readily visible. They were told that appearance was important and enhanced patient comfort and respect. Patients needed to be able to see the names of those who enter their room, as an initial introduction was often quickly forgotten.
No room was entered without a knock on the door; as they entered, each student was instructed to introduce herself/himself and to shake the patient’s hand. Students also introduced themselves to family members or friends who were in the room. Patients wanted healthcare providers not only to be knowledgeable and competent but equally importantly - to display a caring attitude. Therefore, students were taught that attention should be placed on cultivating and conveying just such an attitude.
Students were informed that showing emotions should be viewed as acceptable behavior and that words of “I am so very sorry” connected emotionally. After a full year of conducting bedside manner rounds, student feedback surveys indicate that this exercise has been helpful and should be incorporated into the education of medical students.
Taking a cue from what the Vanderbilt University did, isn’t it time for the hospitality and service-related industry to take a hard look at improving tableside or countertop manners (or whatever you call it), in customer service?
(Shafeek Wahab has an extensive background in hospitality management spanning over 30 years. He has held key managerial responsibilities in internationally renowned hotel chains, both locally and abroad, including his last held position as Head of Branding for a leading hotel group in Sri Lanka. Now focusing on corporate education, training, consulting and coaching, he can be contacted at email@example.com. Website: www.in2ition.biz)