We have all heard expressions like, “the customer is always right” and “the customer is king.” When we are spending our hard-earned money, we expect to have good service. But did you know that there are things that you can do to make sure that you always get great service?
In The Five Worst Types of Customers and How to Avoid Being One of Them, Fiona Adler, describes the relationship between the consumer and the service providers this way: "It's a two-way street. What we bring to the table influences the whole interaction. If we come in grumpy it's hard to get good service. If we're friendly and respectful they're more likely to be friendly back, if we're grumpy they're more likely to be grumpy back."
If we treat the process more like a partnership, rather than something that is one-sided, we will have a much better experience. Here are some of the strategies smart customers use…
Realise you're not the only one that's busy!
Remember the last time you showed up for a scheduled appointment and had to wait? Not fun huh? Maybe it wasn’t the provider’s fault but perhaps the schedule was falling behind because other customers showed up late? Don’t be that person — make sure you are on time, or better yet, be a few minutes early. And if you can’t make your reservation or are running late, have the courtesy to call.
It's always better to make a reservation or to make an appointment rather than simply walk in to a service related business – this will give the service provider time to be prepared for you. And another good time tip – understand that in every business, there are periods of the day, week and year that are busier than others. While being busy is not an excuse for bad service, as consumers we need to be mindful of the added pressures and time constraints. If what you need will require a lot attention, you will get much better service if you avoid these busy times.
Mind Your Manners
There are many times that people in the service industry are not treated with respect – especially if they are employees rather than business owners or professionals. Simple things like saying “please” and “thank you” really go a long way, as does a smile and a kind word. If you are standing in queue or at the checkout counter, get off your mobile phone or stop texting.
If the situation permits, engage your service person in polite conversation – try "you look like you're rushed off your feet!" or a simple "how's YOUR day been?". When you let people know that you are interested them, they are more likely to be interested in you. This is especially true when it comes to businesses that you frequent often.
Give praise generously
Let your service person know how much you appreciate their efforts or what they have done for you – positive reinforcement goes a long way. Part way throught the service you could say something like "I'm really sorry to be a pain and appreciate you looking into this for me!" or "Wow, it's so nice to be served by someone friendly!".
Had good service? Let them know it! Businesses thrive when people spread the word about them, so if you received exceptional service somewhere, tell others about it. If you go someplace new because of someone’s recommendation, let the business know.
If a business has comment cards, take the time to fill them out or better yet, submit an online review for the business to that both the business owner and other potential customers know about your good experience. If an employee went above and beyond to help you, let the owner or manager know about it.
When things go wrong, don't make it worse
No matter how good a company is, there will be times when there is a problem. When this happens, don't assume that all is lost because you could easily make things a lot worse. To get the best resolution, you need to stay calm and politely express your concerns. Give the service person a chance to make it right.
Remember that often the person handling your complaint did not have anything to do with what happened. The same is true in restaurants – if there is a problem with your food, it was not your server’s fault. Keep this in mind when making your complaint.
And before you put a negative review online, try to work with the business owner first. Once you put something in writing on the internet, it is there pretty much forever for all to see so make sure you give the business a fair chance. If you are unable to work out the problem, by all means, post your review but keep to the facts and don’t resort to “name calling” or blanket generalisations (see our Fair Play Policy here).
Bonus – Tips from Industry Insiders
If you're not so nice or rude on the phone, the person taking your reservation might make a notation next to your name in the computer for all the staff to see at service time – 16 Tips On How To Be A Better Hotel Guest. And if you book a hotel room through an internet or discount site, your reservation may not be given as high of a priority. Take the time to call the hotel – speak to the front desk. Introduce yourself and confirm your reservation. How to Get the Best Hotel Rooms and Service
"We create a very in-depth [electronic] portfolio based on the understanding of the guest," says William Bradley, chef at Addison at the Grand Del Mar, which has an in-house system for tracking customer habits. "We have a database on every guest so that we know what to expect when they come in … how they order off the menu, things that they enjoy, if they start off every evening with martinis."
There is a right way and a wrong way to ask your server about his recommendations. Depending upon how you ask, you might get an answer that simply makes his life easier, what comes out of the kitchen fastest, or what the chef wants to push that night. Ask specific questions about dishes on the menu. Also, asking your server about his or her favourites will get a much better response if you have been nurturing a friendly relationship from the beginning.
See some tips for getting better service from restaurants here: Department of Deportment: How to Get VIP Treatment at Pretty Much Any Restaurant or here Getting Good Service: Insiders Spill
So what's our Ultimate Secret for getting Exceptional Service?
When we are a pleasure to work with, the service we receive will always be better!