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Customer service: lessons from the KZN South Coast

Jen and I spent a few days in Scottburgh on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast a couple of weeks ago. We took a slow walk around town on the first day looking for a place to eat. Apart from the usual fast-food outlets, there are a couple of interesting places on the main shopping street, but there is a good selection of restaurants one street down. They are all in a row with open fronts overlooking the ocean.

The problem with opportunities for customer care is that they don’t come neatly packaged and properly labelled. Here is a couple walking in off the street asking for a look at the menu. What are they looking for? What will impress them? What will make them come back?

Well, sloppiness, disinterest and a proprietor and his friends smoking around a table at the front door filling the entire establishment with stale smoke put us off a few places. On the other hand an alert waiter, quick to bring a menu, interested in what we wanted and engaging with us — that got our attention. And it brought us back for a meal. The same waiter served us, and we were enchanted by his engaging personality and his easy manner with all his customers.

We forget, at our peril, that customers are not only interested in what we have to sell and our price list. They also want the experience we have to offer — and that takes engaged and interested employees.

You can’t buy employees like that. I’m not sure you can even train them. But you can find them through your recruitment process — if you know what you are looking for and are willing to learn how to find it. And you can keep them on top of their game by showing them respect and treating them the way you want them to treat your customers.

Customer care begins with giving such employees recognition and the freedom to put their extraordinary talents to work. Do whatever you can to ensure that they keep doing what they do best for you and your customers rather than for your opposition.

What have your experiences been? Please add your comments below.

See other posts on Customer Service HERE.

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Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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