Three Secrets to Providing Customer Service the “Old Fashioned” Way!

It’s getting harder these days to find good old fashioned customer service.  Not only are service providers apparently less motivated to deliver good service, but a lot of customers are making it harder for them to do so!

On a recent trip to The Homestead, founded in 1766, in Hot Springs,VA, I experienced old fashioned service at its best.  Three positive things they did made a big impression!

Work like a team – The reservationist assured me over the phone that she would select a “preferred” room for my husband and me, since we are frequent guests.  Upon check in, the front desk clerk picked up on the reservation file notation and assured us with a smile that we were being “well taken care of”.  Although Frank the bellman was called over to usher us and our luggage to our room, we spotted our favorite bellman Keswick walking over to greet us.  As we stopped to speak to Keswick, Frank was perceptive and generous enough to hand us over to his teammate.  A brief but respectful exchange between teammates resulted in Frank remaining behind to help the next guest while Keswick helped us to our room.  It was so refreshing to have our customer experience elevated above some ritualistic employee procedure.

Pay attention to individual customer tastes – As my husband selected his second cup of tea during afternoon tea in the Great Hall on day one of our stay, tea server Ashley pointed out that his first cup had been decaf and that he had just selected regular for his second.  Although my husband intended to switch, we were impressed that Ashley had noticed and felt compelled to check.  The next afternoon at tea, Ashley prepared a cup of Earl Grey tea as I approached from across the room.  Somehow, with close to a hundred people taking tea that afternoon, Ashley remembered my preference from the previous day.  Kudos to Ashley for paying close attention to her guests and making them feel special!

Handle difficult customers with grace –  At breakfast in the dining room one morning, the omelet chef was making pleasant conversation with four of us while we waited for made-to-order omelets.  Another guest who had abandoned the omelet station suddenly reappeared and immediately received her waiting omelet.  This guest then rudely snipped, “It’s cold.  I don’t want a cold omelet!”  Without hesitation or change of facial expression, the chef pleasantly offered to either place the omelet back on the griddle or immediately make a fresh one.  The rude guest conceded that it would be ok and disappeared.  While the rest of us were mortified by the unjustified rude behavior, Chef Cathy handled it with a grace that further endeared her to the four appreciative “customers” in front of her.

Though old fashioned customer service is becoming less common, it’s still every bit as satisfying as it was in the days of old!  Think back to the higher standards we enjoyed not that long ago, and then find ways to incorporate those timeless behaviors into YOUR customer service today.

That’s a “good answer”!

Do you remember watching the game show “Family Feud”?  Whenever a family member gave an answer, no matter how ridiculous, the rest of the family would clap and cheer: “Good answer! Good answer!”

Did you know there’s actually a recipe for a “good answer”?  Just remember “ABC”!  I teach this “ABC” technique to speakers and presenters, but it can be used by most of us every day!  Do this when asked a question:

AAnswer the question!  That sounds simple, but it means give the direct answer without hedging, sidestepping or adding any preliminary background first.  The questioner is listening for the answer, not for background information, so give the answer first.

BBackground can be provided to support the answer.  This may be in the form of reasons, examples, and explanations, if necessary.

CConnect to a key idea you want to get across.  A talented speaker can find ways to relate the answer back to one or more key concepts of the presentation.

Here’s an example:

Question:  “Should a speaker close every professional presentation with Q&A?”

nswer:  “
No, he or she should not.” 

Background:  “Q&A can be difficult to manage and might actually end your presentation on a flat note, especially if the questions being asked aren’t of interest to the entire group.  It’s actually better to weave question and answer opportunities into the presentation, ending with an offer to entertain additional questions after dismissal by standing near the front of the room for those with “bonus questions”.  If it is important to open the floor for questions, do so BEFORE your closing remarks!”

Connect:  “A speaker’s opening and closing are two of the most important moments in the presentation.  Ensure that your presentation ends strongly by holding Q&A before you deliver your closing remarks.” 

You may not always hear cheers and clapping following your answers, but you can control the mood and pace of Q&A successfully by employing the ABCs of question answering.






Who are “they”?

Have you ever been on the customer end of a statement involving the anonymous, yet typically uncooperative, “they”?  It goes like this…

Customer:  “I’d like to return this item even though I don’t have a receipt.  Can you help me?”
Service Provider:  “I’m sorry, they don’t allow us to accept returns without a receipt.”

At first glance, you might think that sounds pretty good and quite friendly.  However, there’s a subtle problem.  The employee said “they” don’t allow “us” to accept returns.  Who are “they”?  The evil, uncooperative business owners?  Doesn’t this employee represent the business, hence making him or her a member of the “we” group vs. the “us” collection?

Employees represent your business and are the “face” of your business to everyone whom they encounter in the course of doing business.  When referring to the employer, employees should always say “we”.  This demonstrates inclusion and alignment with the company, its products and its values.

  • We appreciate your business.”
  • “I’m sorry, we’re unable to accept returns without a receipt, but would you be interested in an exchange?”
  • We offer some additional discounts for students.”

Take time to meet with your employees and remind them that each of them is part of “we”!  Share your company vision and values and ensure that everyone feels like a player on the team vs. an observer from the bench.

Don’t leave your customers thinking, “Who are ‘they’?”