I am always interested to learn how people became passionate about customer service. Let’s face it, some people really don’t care if a front-line associate is engaging and builds a relationship with a customer, but I certainly do!
Recently, I was wondering about how my passion for customer service developed. I quickly realized that it began in my early teens while working at my father’s store. He owned a small men’s shop and during the holidays I would be placed at the cash register, collecting money. It was a fun job and I loved to constantly check to see how the day’s receipts compared to those of the year before.
My station was not only convenient for checkout, but I had an excellent view of how my dad interacted with his customers. My father had a terrific smile, enjoyed laughing and telling jokes. People loved my dad and my dad loved people; it was a perfect match. He knew everyone’s name – if he didn’t know their name before they walked in his store, he certainly knew their name by the time they left. He also learned where they lived, what they did for a living, what brought them into the store that day and their favorite colors or patterns. My dad did not obtain this information by pulling out a survey or by asking a series of robotic questions, he learned what made his customers tick by engaging with them over time. He was interested in people and had an underlying desire to help them whether they bought something that day or not.
I would call my dad the ideal salesperson. He delivered personalized service and enjoyed doing it every day. Today, there are too few customer service and sales associates that are willing to engage with customers. Many act robotically, saying such things as “debit or credit”, “would you like to sign up for our store’s promotion”, “thank you for shopping with us today”, etc., but a customer can tell that they really don’t care about the answer. That’s unfortunate! What happened to service? I don’t think that we need to eliminate the gigantic malls or erase the Internet to get back to the level of service of the neighbor store where everybody knew your name and were glad that you came.
How can we bring back that level of personalized service? In my travels as a consumer and researcher, I have found many customer service and sales associates who do care, who are helpful, who make you feel welcomed and that your business is appreciated. I call these folks, “Welcomers.” I have found and interviewed hundreds of Welcomers over the last four years to find out what makes them different. I wanted to understand what made them special and how that translated into superior service. One of the most common traits I found is that they have a history of helping people. Even young Welcomers may have helped their dads build the local firehouse, coached little kids or worked at soup kitchens on Thanksgiving serving the homeless. Yes, customer service is all about helping people. Customer service and helping are synonymous. Hiring Welcomers can help your business provide personalized service.
To be clear, Welcomers are not assigned greeters at large retail establishments. Ideally, those greeters will display some of the characteristics of a true Welcomer, but I am referring to customer service and sales associates who interact with customers. Depending on the type of business, it could be the folks at the checkout counters, the tellers, hostesses, coat checkers, etc. They are the people that can make your customers feel welcome, important and happy to do business with you.
In thinking about my recent Thanksgiving, I feel so blessed to have wonderful friends and family. I always loved my parents and realized that they taught me so many wonderful things, but I never fully grasped until recently the impact that my dad had on making me feel so passionate about customer service.
Little did I know when I was eleven and twelve that my experiences working at my dad’s store would provide me with such an important insight; that having Welcomers, people who see customers as people first and know their primary role is to help customers find what they need or want, as front-line associates, is the key to repeat business.
My passion for customer service was born of first hand experience, what’s your story? How did your passion for customer service come to be?