Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Common Courtesy Counts in the Customer Experience

By Candy Parks - Director, Integrated Insight

As children, some of the first words we learn are ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ - the common courtesies. Another important one is ‘you’re welcome’ - one we seem to forget as we grow up. In years of doing customer satisfaction research, I’m always amazed at how wowed consumers are by courteous behavior from businesses with which they interact. It’s often this common courtesy that sets one grocery store, bank, or hotel apart from another. As consumers, they are taught to HOPE for courteous behavior, but not to EXPECT it. So when a business delivers, it sets them apart. And voila, a consumer advocate is born. Consider how people talk about Publix, Nordstrom, Disney, Ritz Carlton, American Express, and Chase banks.

I’ve learned there are few acceptable replacements for the common courtesies, especially ‘you’re welcome.’ Ritz Carlton and Chick-Fil-A use ‘It’s my pleasure’ and that’s a winner. It conveys that they were happy to be of service. What customer doesn’t appreciate that?

In contrast, here are some that I think should be stricken from the customer-facing vocabulary. When a customer says ‘thank you,’ it is not appropriate to say:
  • ‘No problem.’ I just gave you $500 and I say ‘thank you’ for the service/attention/product/etc. And you say, ‘no problem.’ Really? Of course it’s not a problem for you. You just got $500 of my money!
  • ‘Sure thing.’ Well, yes, I guess I was a sure thing, but you’re not making me feel very good about it.
  • ‘Yeah,’ ‘Yep,’ ‘Uh huh’ or any other variation of ‘yes.’ I didn’t just ask you a question!
  • And the absolute worst response to ‘thank you’ is NO RESPONSE AT ALL. A head nod is not a substitution for actual words. Surely you can trouble yourself to say ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘thank YOU, I hope to see you again.’
If you want to create a customer experience that is outstanding in your field, create a culture of courtesy. Make it a basic expectation of how you deal with each other in the workplace (because you are modeling the behavior), and how you deal with your customers. Train for it, monitor it, and hold people accountable for the behavior. It will cost you nothing in capital, but could net you loyalty and increased revenue. I drive past two other grocery stores to get to my Publix – and I pay more for my groceries – because I like the atmosphere and the way I’m treated. I don’t think I’m alone.

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