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CIO Corner: Customer Service Guiding Principles

Having been a CIO in the hospitality arena for both restaurants and hotels, and having traveled extensively in my career.  I must say that I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, the really ugly, and the insane.

This past weekend, I was reminded that I as a customer in the end do have the power.   The choice for the restaurant owner was to either a) substitute fries for rice or b) go to another restaurant where they would gladly accommodate.   They had done this every time we had been there bi-monthly over the last 3 years.  So why is it now a big deal or hassle?   When it was explained in the right way, they gladly accommodated.

It reminded me of the principles that I was taught at an early age that relate to customer service.

Rule #1 - Don't make promises you cannot keep

Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception.  Think before you give any promise – because nothing annoys me or your customers more than a broken one.

Rule #2 - Be consistent

If you are going to talk the talk, walk the walk.  Be reliable and always provide reliable service.  Customers expect this especially in the service arena.

Rule #3 - Listen to your customers

Let your customer talk and show him that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.

Rule #4 - Deal with the complaints

No one likes hearing complaints, especially if the customer gives it in a confrontational or rude manner.  Some will say, “You can’t please all the people all the time”.  Maybe not, but if you give the complaint your attention and handle it well, your business will reap the benefits.  I never forget the one time I was traveling in Yankton, South Dakota.    I ordered the Surf and Turf.  When the steak and shrimp came out the piece of steak was way too small.

I handled it by bringing the waitress over and saying, "Ain't this the dangest thing you ever seen?  Those shrimp ate most of my steak on the way out of the kitchen."  The waitress and chef were laughing and brought out a huge steak.  It is always in the way you deliver the complaint.  You get more with honey some times.

Rule #5 - Take the extra step

I love Ace Hardware.  You walk in and there is hot popcorn always on as you enter the store.  It's free.  You are always greeted by someone asking how they can help.  They walk you to where the item is.  Explain how to use the product.  Take you to your next product and walk you back to checkout.

So remember no matter what the extra step may be, if you want to provide good customer service, take it. They may not say so to you, but people notice when people make an extra effort and will tell other people.

Rule #6 - Throw in something extra

Whether it’s a free dessert, a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, a compliment, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. A small thing, but so appreciated.

I was at Starbucks the other day, big surprise, and I ordered a Venti non-fat latte.  We started chatting and said I need the caffeine today.  He gave not one but two extra shots for free.  Thanked me for being a loyal customer.  And then pulled out the sample tray.  That is why I spend extra on coffee.
It's simple enough, none really costs any extra money, but it keeps loyal customers coming back.

Dan WebberDan Webber is a CIO in Atlanta, GA.  He delivers his unique perspective as Chief Information Officer on technology, business, and the Atlanta IT industry. He is a recent recipient of Oracle's CIO of the quarter award.


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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.