Special thanks to FriendinPetrochemicalIndustry for writing this guest article!

There are many important factors that play a deciding role in determining success in business.  Although many determining factors are out of one’s control/influence, one very simple factor can be controlled, and it can have a profound effect to the success of a business, the importance of customer service.

Investopedia’s definition is:

Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service.  Often, customer service takes place while performing a transaction for the customer, such as making a sale or returning an item. 

Whether one is in retail, food industry, business services or any other business – how customers are treated, is critical to the success of the business.  There are few examples of business monopolies where there is no other choice but to buy from a particular business regardless of the customer service provided.  We can all point to both positive and negative customer service experiences.  Recently I witnessed several instances of both good and bad customer service experiences.  They left me pondering – how much emphasis are we placing on the importance of customer service in our particular industry (petrochemical distribution in my case).

In reflecting on these experiences I would like to share three simple ways companies can train employees to improve upon their employee’s customer service:

  • Be courteous and respectful

o   So simple I know, but sorely missing in many places.  Whether it is how one answers the phone, treats the unknown visitor in the lobby, answers emails or responds in stressful situations.

o   Price will always play a role in customer’s decision making.  But how one treats their customers can create customer loyalty where customers are willing to pay a premium for convenience

  • Take ownership

o   Something can always go awry – whether an order is delayed, paperwork is lost, or customer is upset for some reason.  During these moments, how company employees respond says a lot on the importance of customer service to that business.  Say an order is delayed or wrong product/quality is off.  A customer will call or email and make a complaint.  The last thing they want to hear, if they are able to get a hold of someone on the phone or in person, is redirection.  Companies need employees who take ownership of a process and find a way to solve the problem.  Being honest and saying “I’m sorry” or “I don’t know what happened…but I will look into the issue” go a long, long way.  Even if an employee cannot fix the frustration, effort and empathy go a long way.

  • Explain company’s vision / have employees buy in

o   Employees are paid to perform on the job, yet can always find something to complain about.  The magic elixir is having employees act and perform as if they were the owner’s themselves.

o   When employees understand the importance of customer service to the success of a business, all parties involved will prosper – customers, employees and businesses.

There are numerous books and training that address how companies can improve their customer service.  Some may question whether the costs and efforts are needed.  To those I would ask for them to reflect on their customer service experience (whether a restaurant, retail, or other) and ask if their own experiences have influenced how they spend their money.  If it does, then the answer is yes… customer service is critical at all levels.  A customer’s experience not only affects how they individually make their decisions, but also how they speak of your business to others.