University of Illinois Extension

High Tech Is No Substitute for Good Customer Service

In today’s fast paced society where convenience is king and reliance on computer technology is necessary for almost every aspect of business we should be careful not to overlook the “basics.” While virtually any business manager/owner would agree that customer service is one of the most essential aspects of business, most of us would probably not have to think for very long to remember an instance where we were less than satisfied with a purchasing experience due to less than adequate customer service.

As an Extension Educator, I have the opportunity to visit a number of communities and work with a variety of interesting people throughout Illinois. Due to the fact that the majority of the programs and projects I am involved with center around business development and marketing issues, I try to make the most of my travels and look for innovative ideas being used by businesses in the areas I visit. Including some of these real life examples in my programs really encourages people to think outside of the box and often spurs interesting discussions along the way. During the course of the year I stay in a variety of hotels, eat in numerous restaurants, buy spur of the moment supplies for my programs at local hardware stores, etc. While the majority of my essential needs are usually well satisfied by the products and services I receive from these businesses, I often leave with a feeling that something is missing. Could it be something as simple as a “thank you?”

While some readers might assume that a bad experience motivated me to focus this article on customer service; that is not the case. Yes, I am occasionally annoyed by an encounter with a less than helpful employee. However, it was a good experience that gave me the idea for this month’s article. As I thought about this “good experience” during my drive home I came to the conclusion that I probably shouldn’t be so impressed with the courteous treatment I had received the night before because, after all, that is how things are supposed to be. Instead, maybe I should be a little more disgusted for the lack of quality customer service I have experienced in other instances that are all too frequent.

As business owners strive to survive in today’s competitive markets, it is important that they don’t loose site of the little things that can really make a business stand out for the better. Also, it is not enough for the business owner alone to understand the importance of good customer service. Employees should also be educated on these issues. While there are many high tech solutions to monitor and upgrade the productivity of a business, simply making sure that some of the following low-tech questions are addressed could make a significant difference for some businesses.

  1. Are your employees neat in appearance and identified by uniform or nametag?

  2. Are customers promptly greeted by someone with a friendly, helpful attitude?

  3. Are your customers thanked for coming in and invited back for another visit?

  4. Are phone calls answered promptly and does the employee identify him/herself to the caller?

If all businesses would address these four simple questions, I think it would make the majority of our purchasing experiences much more enjoyable. I accept the fact that we will all have experiences where our steaks don’t get cooked just right, the bed in the hotel is a little lumpy or our computer crashes; however, a little old fashioned customer service (including a thank you) really helps a person to overcome at least some of the adversities of life.