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Murch: The good service all customers deserve

April 13, 2012
Steve Murch - Managing Editor , The Alpena News

Question of the day: How do you define good customer service?

I'll bet if you ask 50 different people you'll get 50 different answers. Well, maybe not 50 but darned close. Everyone has different expectations of the kind of service they want.

But should we expect different service from different businesses? If you want to nitpick, probably, but at the core all good customer service is the same giving every customer your best efforts. The four P's of marketing product, price, place and promotion are the stripped down basics and are the cornerstone for good customer service.

I bring up good customer service because it became a topic of The News' town hall discussion during the public Q&A portion a couple of weeks ago. Though the Q&A was more comment than question, regardless the topic brought up, it all boiled down to customer service.

From taking care of a customer's needs to the hours of operation, they all had something to do with customer service. It also highlighted that good customer service means something different to everyone.

Two of the panelists that night were longtime businessmen Bob Young and Hal Neiman. Both run successful businesses and both put a high value on providing their customers good service. Having worked for Hal, I can attest to his dedication to it.

To be successful, a business needs to stress customer service because without it they are sunk. That doesn't mean all businesses with good customer service will survive, just that without it there is a long chasm to cross.

Little things mean a lot; probably more than some will ever grasp.

As an example, I went to two different businesses one day and had cashiers or those who were running the register at that moment in time give poor customer service. At the first one, the woman was rude and had a look that said she would rather be anywhere or be doing anything else besides waiting on me. She didn't even tell me what my change was, just dumped into my hand. As I left I thanked her and she said I was welcome.


First off, she should have thanked me since I just helped to pay her wages for that moment in time. She also should have been thankful that I didn't ask to see the manager. Either way that business loses because I won't be going back.

The second business had a friendly crew, but they were friendly with each other and chatted up a storm about what they did the day before, barely paying attention to the person who was going to be coughing up some money for them. When I was finished, the person who gave me my change said "have a good one."

Again, huh?

So here's one more. Several years ago I bought a car that was an absolute lemon. I had it in the shop quite a bit and the problems never seemed to go away. The head mechanic at the garage was sympathetic and after the third time in tried to help alleviate my bill. The owner didn't like it and basically told him to knock it off. I got rid of the car shortly after that and never went back. To this day I'm not sure I will buy from that company simply because of the attitude of the owner of that particular dealership.

But good customer service is so much more than that, and I have heard examples of great customer service: A part is late and someone is waiting on repairs, so they find a way to help with the bill; a woman leaves a purse behind and someone at the store delivers it to her; a business is having a problem getting a product from a distributor so it calls a competitor to see if they can get it, risking a lost customer in the future who might just go to the competitor.

Here's a really simple one I leave you with: answer the phone in a timely manner. Nobody wants to wonder if the business is still open.

Are you happy with the kind of service you get? If so, great. If not, here's a word for the business owners: we make our voices heard by taking our money elsewhere.



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