My Passion For Customer Service

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? 

Richard Shapiro About Richard Shapiro

Richard R. Shapiro is the founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR), which provides research, training and consulting services to Fortune 500 corporations on how to improve the customer experience. His first book is The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business.

Comments

  1. Congratulations on the new blog Richard!

  2. I had a similar experience working in my father’s dry cleaning store. Something my father taught me that I think is a long-lost “art” is counting out the change for the customer. I don’t like it when they hand you the change and bills together. Usually the change falls out of your hand while you’re trying to separate them. Then you have to stand there and count it before walking away. I know that part of it is the register now tells you how much the change is, but I still think it would be nice to have it counted out as it’s handed to you. Customer service is paramount for me.

    • Janis, thanks so much for sharing your story working in your dad’s store. At the time, we never realized the impact those experiences would have upon us…x years later. Rich

  3. Congratulations on the launch of your new website!

  4. I think the “welcomer” trait is innate.and if learned, learned at an early age. It shows up in not just how you treat customers but people as a whole. These are the individuals who do the relationship maintenance in families and friendships. Great read Rich and congrats on your blog!

    • Natasha, thanks so much for you comment about the welcomer trait and for the congratulations on my new site. You are so right that in general people who treat others nicely make the best front-line associates. While it definitely gives someone an added advantage to learn to help others at an early age, there are some folks who can learn to act and think more like a welcomer with a good teacher. Thanks again! Rich

  5. Hi Richard,

    Congratulations on the new blog.

    The lessons your father taght you were similar to those I learned from my father. Find out what is important to your cusotmer before you try to satisfy them. Once you understand what is improtant to them, you are on the path to making them repeat customers.

  6. Richard, great blog! Congratulations and I look forward to reading more!

  7. Richard,

    Great story to kick off the new blog. I think I came to the customer service passion later in life than you.
    I, unfortunately, didn’t have that business experience within my family as a child as the real entrepreneur in my family, my paternal grandfather passed away before I was born. For whatever reason, my dad didn’t have the entrepreneurial mindset.

    For me, it was after i got into my first career of leading minor league professional baseball organizations.

    Major League Baseball offered such a stodgy, stiff product when it came to customer service, it wasn’t hard to be better than them, but when I got into the game in the mid-80s teams like the Durham Bulls were coming into vogue and began to put Minor League Baseball on the map by creating a “Fan Experience.”

    We had to, we couldn’t sell “major league talent” we had to sell the “family entertainment” aspect.

    But, at some point, early in my career I made the decision that I wanted to change the context of what “family” meant, and shift from just focusing on entertaining the families that came to the ballpark to actually making them feel like part of our baseball team’s family.

    So, you would find me taking tickets at the main gate, handing out premium giveaway items on promotional dates, investing time sitting in the stands connecting with fans, and then standing at the gates thanking people at the end of the game, among other things.

    Now, about 99% of the promotional events you find at Major League ballparks had their genesis in the minor leagues in the 80s & 90s, and with ticket prices going through the atmosphere, they’ve got to offer more than just a ballgame.

    • Skip, thanks so much for commenting on my blog and for sharing your story on how you first became passionate about customer service. You are 100% correct that in order to feel the passion for the customers you need to interact with them..just like you did at the ballpark. An excellent lesson for all of us. Rich

  8. I love your new blog site Richard. It’s genuine, relatable, and so smart. I too had a dad who demonstrated service excellence. As a little girl, I watched him shine the floors and counters of his neighborhood bar until they sparkled and shined. He took such pride in putting that something extra in every detail of the customer experience. It’s no surprise that he was loved by all his customers, and he taught me by example how to be passionate about service.

  9. Richard – lovely story of your start in your father’s store. I do think there are “welcomers” in every retail establishment but I don’t think most of them get there through training. I think it’s an innate ability and reflects the person’s upbringing — like yours did. If they are taught at a young age to say “please” and “thank you,” that is what they do as adults. I just returned from Florida and after the cashier rang up my sale of several items we realized that I was eligible for a further discount. She told me no bother, and her manager came over and said we’ll just void the sale and start over again. I was floored. I said to my friend with me, “Can you imagine that happening in a New York department store?” I cringe at the thought.

    • Jeannette, thanks so much for sharing your feedback on my site. You too have a wonderful blog with fantastic information and such thoughtful comments. http://writespeaksell.com/ I agree that in many other parts of the country outside of NYC, you may find more welcomers and it’s also true that many of the NY department stores are filled with robots and the indifferent. However, if you look hard and long enough, there are a few welcomers who make us feel welcomed, important and appreciated. Thanks again. Rich

  10. What an inspiring story Rich! Congratulations on the blog – I look forward to reading your posts. I love the concept of welcomers and can’t wait to read the book.

    I’ve employed many Medical Information people in the pharmaceutical industry over the years who take first line calls from patients, pharmacists and doctors. Always the best people at the job had those qualities you describe.
    They often didn’t have the right degrees but we could always teach them pharmacology and product knowledge. We can’t teach them to care and go the extra mile from within their heart and soul. It’s these people that we instinctively recognize when we recruit our staff.

    When I look back, I learnt the best lessons on dealing with people from my parents – how to be fair from my Mum and how to negotiate from my Dad. My Dad sounds just like your father! Everyone loves him, he is genuinely interested in other people and know how to approach them. As times were tough, he left school at 14 and learnt his life skills the hard way. So I guess you’re really talking about people’s value systems.

    That’s the gift that our parents give us that can be truly priceless.

    • Sharon, thanks so much for your lovely, emotional and thoughtful comments about your experience with your parents. Thanks so much too for the congratulations! You are so right that most of the time technical skills can always be taught but it’s the personal traits that are the ones that customers see, hear and feel on every interaction that truly counts. And, if you don’t have those traits, you shouldn’t be placed on the front-lines in the first place. Rich

  11. Hi Richard and Congratulations on your new Blog site. I loved your post about working with your Dad. My parents had a small corner grocery store and I also had the opportunity as you did to work along side them when I was young. I wrote about this on Marilyn Suttle’s http://www.whosyourgladys.com/ I agree with you about their wonderful inspirational site for entrepreneurs.

    Technology has brought us so many wonderful business opportunities but along with that has come a sense by many customers that we treat them as “Customer #6,358″ instead of as a real person, showing empathy and interest. Your post rings so true.

    I wish you much success in the coming months with your blog and your business!

    • Melissa, it looks like almost everyone has the same pattern of learning about their passion for customer service via their parents. Thanks so much for sharing your story and for commenting and congratulating me on my new blog site. Continued success, good health and happiness to you and your entire business and personal families. Rich

  12. Richard,

    First and foremost, congratulations on the launch of the new blog! The site looks great, and you are off to a strong start already.

    I, too, have a similarly formative experience with customer service. As a third generation entrepreneur, I got to see my grandfather and parents interact directly with customers in the personal, interested fashion that was the norm decades ago.

    My parents particularly were always extremely customer focused, and I learned much from simply watching them when I was younger. From what you’ve told me of your welcomer concept, I would say they were both natural “welcomers.”

    Kudos on the blog launch! I look forward to great content in the future.

  13. Adam, thanks so much for your congratulations on my first blog and for all of your assistance! So glad that you were fortunate enough to have a similar experience with your grandparents and parents. I’m 100 percent confident that they definitely were welcomers! Customer service is all about being nice to other people and trying to be as helpful as possible. Thanks again. Rich

  14. Hi Richard,

    Awesome post. I wrote a blog the other day titled “Customer Service Timeline: Run Your Business Like Your Grandparents Did” that aligns itself nicely with your “My Passion for Customer Service.”

    My grandfather would give me detailed descriptions on how he grew his seafood production business. After long winded stories, as most grandfathers will do, the main focus was always his customer service. There was no internet back in the ’40′s so how else was he able to bring in new customers.

    Again, thanks for the post. Just signed up to your blog, I look forward to more posts from you.

    @michelfalcon

    • Michel, thanks so much for your awesome comments! I just read your blog. http://preview.tinyurl.com/7c8vgw6
      It was really wonderful to learn your story too. I’m also a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and had the good fortune of living in the same town where his father’s liquor store was. It was just a typical store in a small town. But Gary turned that store into a large goldmine by maintaining the basics of customer service his father had taught him along the way. Thanks so much also for your tweets. Glad to have you on board. Rich

  15. Mauricio Ugalde says:

    Congratulations on your new website.

  16. Congratulations on your new site Rich.

    Welcomer is the basis for positive customer experience.
    It basically comes from the heart, but never the mind.

    Look forward to reading more insights from you soon!

    @choypw

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