Great service deserves recognition. When you or I are on the receiving end of good service, we want to reward the provider on the spot with an extra tip or a verbal compliment. And when the service we receive is abysmal, we want to scream in frustration and disgust.
In the July 16 issue of the Philadelphia Business Journal, columnist Jeffrey Gitomer acknowledged the high-quality service some companies give, and then he bashed others for what he called "the dark side" of customer service. Two of the brickbats Gitomer tossed were aimed at restaurants that don't take reservations and executives who don't accept calls from their own customers.
Many of his comments were right on target, and some even made me laugh. The award I liked most was for the best employee title of the decade. It went to a Texas company called Delta Dallas Staffing, which decided to do away with the title "receptionist" and change it to "Director of First Impressions."
The beauty of such a change, he wrote, is that it sets a tone for the employee who holds it as well as for the customer who hears it. " 'Receptionist' tells you who you are," he wrote. "No one cares who you are. 'Director of First Impressions' tells you what you are supposed to do. And that is more critical than who you are. What does your title say about what you do?"
Gitomer's point is similar to one made by Ron Zemke a number of years ago in his book Service America. Zemke's theory is that when someone first contacts a business it is a "moment of truth." In short, the way people are treated when they first make contact with a company is the impression they always will carry.
A good example you've likely experienced is the rudeness of some people who answer the phone. Before you can even say a word, they say, "This is XYZ Company, please hold." And you hold and hold and hold far beyond what would constitute a reasonable wait.
You've probably also experienced being ignored as you enter a department store. Smart retailers now employ greeters to welcome you at the door and ask if you need directions.
Walking into a physician's office for an appointment for the first time can be an eye-opening experience, too. After identifying yourself and the doctor you're scheduled to see, usually the first response from the receptionist is a request for proof of insurance. Then you are instructed to fill out a form that asks all sorts of personal questions. It's an experience that leaves you feeling more like a number than a human being. In our increasingly consumer-aware environment, physicians who want satisfied patients would be foolish to continue operating in such a fashion.
Some experts mistakenly equate aloofness and coolness to customers with professionalism. But real professionalism requires that people be treated with dignity and respect. That means customers--and patients are customers--should be given a smile and a hello when they first arrive.
I believe any business looking for success would be wise to hire or promote someone to Director of First Impressions. It would change a lot of things. For starters, it would show customers that someone in that company cares.
They'll notice, believe me, Charles S. Lauer Publisher