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The dying art of great customer service
by Christi Quatro
Jul 07, 2012 | 1126 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Where have all the smiles gone? The “hellos” and “how are yous?” “Can I help you?” and the “have a great day”? Is this language becoming extinct in our business world or am I the only one who feels that I’m inconveniencing the employee at the register when I ask for paper instead of plastic or for hot fries with my order?

Now, I shouldn’t generalize because every once in a while I do get great service, but I wonder if maybe I am just fooling myself that the service was phenomenal because I have become accustomed to mediocre service for so long, and that anything other than that is a step-up. I guess what I am really saying is that great service is becoming harder and harder to find. Being that I have always worked in a service industry, I am from an old-school feeling that your job is a stage. We all have life to deal with, but when you show up to work, you leave all of your baggage behind the curtain, put on the mask and give the performance of your life to your customers.

I think too often businesses hire warm bodies to fill the position instead of hiring on personality. I can teach anybody a skill but I can’t teach someone to have a great attitude. As a marketer, I can’t begin to explain how hard it is to get one new customer in the door. We are creatures of habit, so to convince someone to come and try your product and explain to them why it is better than their usual brand is nearly impossible. When you actually get that guest in your door and someone who is having a bad day behind your counter decides to roll his eyes or gossip with her co-worker and completely ignore the waiting customer, I almost want to punch someone. Nothing is worse than spending your hard-earned money on a bad experience.

I could easily blame bad service on bad training or that some companies are too big for their own good, but it seems that bad service is coming at me from all businesses big and small. I also don’t believe that bad service is from the “you get what you pay for” motto either because how is it that I can pay $32 for a steak at one restaurant and have to practically set my table on fire to get noticed? Am I in the wrong because your cook prepared my requested medium-rare prime choice well done? Silly me to want my salad BEFORE my dinner. And can you please add an extra side of attitude, because the look you just gave me wasn’t enough.

How about when you are in line at one of those big-box grocery stores and it’s time for the cashier’s break just as you reach the front of the line? So she stands there, waiting for her relief, doesn’t make eye contact with you, doesn’t acknowledge you. Did I forget to turn off my invisible superpower? Can she not see me? How hard is it to just let me know it will be a moment? Instead, her relief shows up (who doesn’t acknowledge me either). They exchange a little gossip about how one of them couldn’t get Saturday off and how hot the weekend is supposed to be as they trade places. Finally, one of them looks at me and simply says “hi.” Is this what I can expect if I am looking for good service?

The long and short of it is this: Customers will go elsewhere if the service is better, they will trade brands if they can expect a great attitude with it. I think in today’s market where everyone is vying for the same piece of the pie, we need to expect more and insist that service is what sells. Call me old fashioned, but my coffee always tastes better when served with a smile.

Christi Quatro is the director of communications at The Chamber. She can be contacted at
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