A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
The Customer Service Circle
How your staff gets along with
each other makes a big difference.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (April 6,
It was a long time ago, but Georganne remembers it like it was
yesterday. We had just finished our very first presentation together
and had gone out to dinner at a fancy schmancy restaurant to
celebrate. Rich said something like, "I apologize in advance if
the service is bad, because bad service seems to follows me
everywhere." But it didn't follow him here; the customer care
in this restaurant was impeccable – and the food was good, too.
After we finished our meal, the waiter, a pleasant young man who
obviously enjoyed his job, came by and asked if we'd like dessert.
We both said we didn't think so, but he returned a few minutes later
with a dessert cart. And this was no ordinary dessert cart. This one
had a beautiful cut-glass lid that, when lifted, revealed all kinds
of tempting treats. The cool thing was that what you saw was what
you get – we picked our desserts right off of that cart. Instant
Georganne chose cheesecake, and Rich, being the chocoholic that
he is, went right for the chocolate mousse. We grabbed our
silverware and dug in. That was when George noticed a strange look
on Rich's face.
He was turning various shades of red and he seemed to be gasping
for breath. He wasn't choking, but George could tell he was in
trouble. She asked him what was wrong, but he couldn't answer so she
screamed for the waiter, and for someone to call for help.
We're not going to tell you the full story just in case you
happen to be eating, but suffice to say our experience took out the
two tables next to us. We don't think they even finished their
meals. To make a long story short, Rich's delicious chocolate mousse
wasn't chocolate mousse at all. It was lard. Lard all dressed up to
look like a fancy dessert. We hope you never have to experience what
it's like to have to get a mouth full of lard, out of your mouth.
The restaurant's owner was mortified. Once it was determined that
Rich was okay, he couldn't do enough for us. He apologized, comped
our dinners, plus those at the surrounding tables. He even
graciously gave us all gift certificates and begged us to please
come back and dine at his restaurant again. When things calmed down,
our waiter came back and sat down with us. The poor guy was more
shaken up than we were. He couldn't apologize enough and took
responsibility for what had happened. He said, "I'm sorry. I'm
new here, and some of the other waiters aren't so friendly. They
were playing a joke on me. It's happened before, but I caught it in
time. I should have checked the dessert cart before presenting it to
you, but this time, I just didn't do it." We assured him that
it wasn't his fault and left him a big tip.
This experience has never left us. And not just because we're
leery of chocolate mousse. It never left us because of that waiter's
anguish. This young man was an incredible wait person just trying to
do his job. He was friendly, caring, and knowledgeable –
everything guests want in a service provider and everything you want
in an employee. And obviously everything some underachieving
employee wanted to sabotage.
Here's the deal: Great service is a never-ending circle because
every day you serve two kinds of customers. External customers and
Internal customers. External customers are the reason you are in
business. Meeting the needs, and exceeding the expectations, of your
External customers is priority No. 1. Internal customers are the
people on your team, as well as vendors and anyone else you work
with to take care of the needs of your External customers. You
cannot WOW your External customers if your associates are at odds.
Who suffers when the cashier needs the stock person to load a
customer's car, but the stock person views the cashier's request as
Who suffers when a sales associate does an incredible job of
helping a guest choose the things she'll need to create a scrapbook
for her friend's new baby, but the cashier casually tosses the
merchandise in a bag, and doesn't even bother to say "Thank
Who suffers when a guest asks for help with a new craft, and the
associate tells her that the person who knows "this stuff"
is on break so she'll have to come back later.
Who suffers when you ask an associate to check if an item is in
stock for a customer on the telephone, but the associate is too busy
doing other things to get back to you?
Do these examples sound far-fetched? They're not. They are right
out of our customer focus groups. In each example it's not just the
customer who suffers – ultimately you will, too, as word gets
around that service in your store is lacking. Here's what you can do
to ensure internal harmony.
1. Hold a store meeting to explain the difference between
External and Internal customers, and why both are important to the
success of the store. Help your associates understand that their
jobs will ultimately be easier when everyone works together toward a
common goal. Explain that interruptions from you or anyone else are
not annoyances, but occasions to serve a guest's immediate needs.
Encourage your associates to thank one another for their efforts.
2. Together with your team, list any obstacles that would
prevent them from providing good internal service. Take steps to fix
or eliminate the obstacles on the spot. If an obstacle cannot be
fixed at your meeting, then take the necessary steps afterward to
make sure every associate knows it has been fixed or eliminated.
3. Remember that a thank you from the boss goes a long way in
promoting internal harmony. A handwritten note or our CITA Card
(Caught In The Act of Delighting a Guest) will work wonders, too.
E-mail us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
for a CITA Card template that you can easily customize.
A retailer once told us, "Customer service isn't rocket
science, it's twice as hard." Isn't that the truth? It's tough
enough, juggling the many needs of today's demanding External
customers, but it's a whole lot easier when you know your fellow
coworkers will always be there to watch your back.
(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants,
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts
on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything
that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment.
Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their
"Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and
seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the
media, including the ABC National News special report, "How
Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer
Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom
line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by
tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two
of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and
their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the
Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors
(ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.
You'll find thousands of strategies, tactics, tips. and
techniques to help you grow your business on their Retail Adventures™
They mean it when they say to call if you want to talk about your
store. They know how tough it is right now, and they're happy to
brainstorm ideas with you – they want you to succeed! To read
previous articles by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles in the