Making customer service shine

Last night was an especially clear summer night in Wisconsin. As my little sister was zipping along in her newly-acquired convertible, a canvas of brilliantly-shining stars opened up overhead. It was at that moment I wondered if outstanding customer service levels at retail could once again shine like the stars.

It’s a fact. When you experience good service in action you just know it. I’m not talking about service that meets expectations — honestly, that’s a pretty low bar — rather I’m speaking to the kind of service that is extraordinary. A level of service that delivers an incredible feeling that service is not a lost art at retail.

I’ve seen that kind of service, albeit rarely. Now don’t for a moment think that I’m ignoring the pockets of good examples scattered across the United States. However, as I mentioned, in general, service levels at retail are subpar and exemplary service is scarce. Now imagine this: What if shine could be added to the associates that are front-and-center within food, drug and mass retailers?

Robert Spector and Patrick Murphy’s popular book, “The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence,” cites an occasion when asked who trains his salespersons, then co-chairman Bruce Nordstrom replied, “Their parents.” Assuming Mr. Nordstrom was right, how can a retailer polish the shine on existing frontline staff?

The BIG idea for this post is to instill passion in customer-facing team members by giving them a reason to shine. The concept is not new. In fact, as I was looking for everyday examples outside of retail that could be used to prime the pump of passion, the concept of good parenting resurfaced. (Thus, Nordstrom’s off-the-cuff comment may be the idea that has been overlooked when we think of exemplary service.)

So, who are the first teachers for most children? Their parents. And what is it that parents say to their children to bolster confidence and encourage repeated behavior? Four simple words: “I’m proud of you.” Pride! Not a newfangled concept. But, honestly, how often as coaches, managers, mentors, and business owners do we take the time to express these four words to our associates? I strongly believe that pride will put a shine on customer-facing associates and encourage them to become the superstars that deliver extraordinary service.


Dave Wendland is vice president strategic relations and co-owner of Hamacher Resource Group, a company focused on improving results across the retail supply chain located near Milwaukee, Wis. He directs business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company and has been instrumental in positioning HRG among the industry’s foremost thought leaders. You may contact him at (414) 431-5301 or learn more at Hamacher.com.

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