Thanks to Those Who Love to Serve


There are some people who simply exude welcome, joy and friendliness. They look for and find opportunities to do what they can to make the people around them feel valued and special.  To them, service is not a job they put on when they walk into work and then take off again at the end of they day.  It simply is who they are.

Have you met any of these amazing people lately?  I have and am lucky enough to have some of these people on my team.  The positive energy, the willingness to get done what needs to get done, the ability to see beyond the problem to potential solutions are not common traits. Too often, the good they do is taken for granted. Today, I want to say thanks to the many people who serve, who love to serve and who consider it a privilege to serve.

Service is not what you do, but who you are. It is a way of living that you need to bring to everything you do, if you are to bring it to your customer interactions.       – Betsy Sanders

Upright and Breathing are not Key Qualities

Tired businesswomanIn the last four years, I have facilitated over 100 customer service training sessions.  By far, the majority of people in my sessions want to provide their customers with great service.  They are excited to learn about the concept of internal customer service; they want to learn how to present themselves as professionals and how to effectively manage unhappy, disappointed customers.  They are eager to share their experiences with others in the group.

But every once in a while, someone will show up in a session who simply does not understand why they should provide some of the basics, never mind go out of their way to make a customer feel valued.  They believe that unhappy, disappointed customers are rude and demanding and refuse to consider using techniques to manage difficult situations.

I had one participant openly admit to spitting in a customer’s burger when it was pointed out to her that the burger wasn’t cooked as ordered.  (I must admit to thinking that was an urban myth.  Nobody would do that, right?  Wrong!!)  Another participant told me he had absolutely no intention of ever apologizing to a customer or trying to find a solution to a problem because “Customers get what they get and if they aren’t happy, they can just deal with it.”

Each time this happens I am astounded at the negativity.  We need customers. Customers pay our bills for us; they pay for our new car, our dream vacation, our children’s education.  Yes, sometimes customers come to our businesses with unrealistic expectations.  Sometimes the customer is “wrong”, but that does not give service professionals the right to treat the customer with disdain and disrespect.

Why do some employers put up with this type of behaviour?

Here are two reasons I’ve been given.

1.  The employee is great at everything else. Because they are technically proficient, they are allowed to get away with atrocious behaviour.

2.  They fill a time slot in the schedule.  Sometimes labour shortages result in the “hey, a living, breathing person who shows up for work at least 80% of the time is better than nobody.”

I understand the temptation to let high customer service standards slide a bit in those situations, but don’t give in!  The reality is that an employee with this type of negative attitude damages your business.  Having toxic, negative, people-haters showing up for work damages your reputation, your current customer leave and potential customers stay away.  Not only that, but the work environment becomes increasingly toxic as the negativity starts infecting previously positive attitude employees who see bad behaviour not being addressed.

Attitude truly does count.  You can teach someone HOW to complete a task, but you can’t train them to complete it with professional and personal pride or to care about their co-workers or their customers.

Upright, breathing and technically proficient isn’t good enough!   Hire people that want to succeed.  Hire people that would not dream of settling for “barely good enough” .  Hire people that actually care about and like people.


What Makes You Say “Never Again”?

Winnipeg has a whole lot of restaurants providing food options that run the gamut from diners and drive-ins all the way to high end, fabulous elegance.

As May long weekend tends to revolve around camping or cabin life, my husband and I held true to that spirit and decided to visit some local drive-in favourites; one for their burgers and another for their ice cream.

The first diner we went to has been in Winnipeg forever.  Their food gets rave reviews and they were featured on the show ‘You Gotta Eat Here’. So yes, my expectations were pretty high.   We were disappointed.  Everything was so old.  Not retro … old.  The electric heaters looked rusted out.  The carpets were dirty.  The laminate table tops were peeling.  On the other hand, my husband did enjoy his burger.  My meal was disappointing, but I’ll take some responsibility for that.  I should have stuck with what they’re famous for.  The service was pleasant, but the whole place looked tired and dirty.  I’m not sure we’ll go back. With so many diners and drive-ins left to try, one tasty burger did not provide a compelling reason to return, even for take-out.

The second restaurant was actually a bit out of Winnipeg. We hopped in the car and headed to the Half Moon Drive-in in Lockport.  It’s another place that’s been around for years (since 1938 in fact) that a whole lot of people swear by.  After our first experience, I made sure to keep my expectations in check.  When we arrived, their ice cream window wasn’t yet open so we had to go inside.  What a difference.  Spotless retro.  Lots of laminate tables, not one peeling.  Vinyl seats and benches with no rips or tears.  Instead of carpet, they had linoleum which was completely in keeping with the theme and so much easier to keep clean.  The service was friendly and efficient. Half Moon was an ice cream visit but as I saw the trays of burgers, fries, onion rings and hot dogs walking by, I knew we were going to make the trip back before this summer is over.

Tony Allesandra said “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you in the game.  Service wins the game.” Customer service absolutely is important.  Customers who feel valued and cared for will look past worn carpet or dated furniture, but for how long? At what point, does good service no longer cut it?

What are your thoughts?

When Assumptions Get in the Way of Customer Service and Sales

The trade show floor is crowded. Booth after booth after booth of company displays fill the exhibition hall. The show is an annual event and every company represented put significant dollars into being there so they could showcase their product and their service.

A lot of work has gone into preparing for the trade show.  Weeks before opening day, invitations and entrance passes were mailed to current and potential customers.  Special incentives were created for these three days. Marketing pieces were packed up and shipped to the exhibition hall, along with pop-up booths and door prize boxes.  As this show is geared towards rural municipalities and outdoor living, many companies brought along an example of the products they provide. From boats to tractors, emergency generators to plows, there are enough high-end toys and gadgets to keep any “worth your salt” rural, outdoor enthusiast busy for hours and hours.

Each booth is staffed by at least two sales professionals, all eager to close some lucrative deals. Many of these professionals rely on commission to help pay their bills. A lot of the products are priced in the tens of thousands of dollars; some are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  They are expensive and intended to last for years and years. In other words, they don’t sell a lot of widgets, but when they do sell a widget, the payoff is great.

Most of the people attending the trade show are from administrative positions in rural government or business owners from rural communities.   They are looking for products or services that will help address specific challenges or needs.  Some are there because they can’t get enough of the cool toys and gadgets on display.  A few are in suits, but most are dressed business casual.

Walking down the aisle, through the throngs of primarily men in khakis, polo shirts and the occasional ball cap, is an elderly man.   He is tall, but stooped.  His jeans are old, his shirt is wrinkled and his work boots are a little muddy.  Instead of a portfolio, he’s putting all the paperwork and free stuff he collects into the bag provided by the exhibition registration team.

As he enters each booth, many of the sales professionals ignore him, instead choosing to focus on the khaki, polo-shirt wearing men.  After all, they only have three days of focused prospecting and selling. They need to focus on the high-potential clients.

He seems resigned to being overlooked and continues collecting information from a variety of booths.  As he stops again, this time at the booth of a company selling emergency generators, the sales professional working that booth acknowledges him, shakes his hand, welcomes him  and starts some friendly dialogue.

Before that tall but stooped man, wearing jeans, a wrinkled shirt and muddy work boots left the booth 45 minutes later, he signed a contract to purchase a $500,000 emergency generator for his community in northern Manitoba.

This story was shared with me by the sales professional who chose to look past the jeans, wrinkled shirt and muddy boots. A big part of success in the service industry is our ability to put our assumptions about people behind us.  Yes, those assumptions are based on previous life experiences, but we don’t know the stories of the people that walk through our doors.

It’s so easy to make assumptions about people based on the way they look, the way they talk or where they are from.  Those assumptions close doors and opportunities.  Regardless of whether we lose the opportunity to pull in commission on a $500,000 deal or we lose the opportunity to connect with and learn from someone with different life experience … we lose.

A Smile helped Warm the Bone Chilling Cold

As I write this, I am looking out the window, mentally preparing myself to one again venture out into the elements.  And then, I realize how fortunate I am.  The actual amount of time I have to spend outside is pretty short.  Condo to car to parking garage to workshop and then the reverse.  There are some service professionals who have to work in these elements.  Brrrr ….  

As some of you know, I am a loyal Red River Co-op customer. The wait time to fill up may a little longer than some other gas stations due to the line-ups, but the service is so friendly, it’s worth the wait.  Another reason I like Co-op, especially at this time of year, is i don’t have to stand shivering beside my car to fill the tank. They are one of the few gas stations that still has a full-serve option.

Over the last few weeks, every time I have gone to put gas in the car, I have been greeted with a smile.  Ok, I can’t actually see the smile as it’s hidden behind a ski mask and scarf, but I can hear it.  In spite of the bitter cold, the young people filling up their customer’s gas tanks are demonstrating service professionalism at it’s best.  I’m pretty sure some of them really felt like calling in sick and staying inside, instead of going to work. They showed up anyway and more importantly, they showed up with a smile in their voice.

To all the service professionals out there, working through this bitter weather with a smile and  cheerful attitude, I salute you and thank you!

Is there someone who you’d like to recognize for their great service.  Why not submit your experience here?