Monday, February 15, 2010

Talk To Me!!!

Talk to me! Tell me what’s going on! When it comes to providing excellent customer service – communication is key! This is especially true when customers are waiting for service. Let’s face, it we’re all busy these days so when we have to wait for anything it can lead to great frustration and dissatisfaction.

That being said there are times when businesses can’t provide the service that the customer is expecting in a timely fashion. When this occurs it’s critical that the business keep the customer informed. I’ve experienced this situation recently in three very different circumstances. I’ve seen businesses treat waiting customers the right way and the wrong way.

The right way occurred when I found myself in the Emergency Room at a local hospital. No one wants to end up in the ER and no one wants to have to sit and wait for service when they’re feeling lousy. The ER did en exceptional job of keeping the patients (their customers) informed about what was going on and how long things were going to take. There was constant communication coming from the staff and even a white board in the room that was updated with what tests were going to be performed and how long the results were going to take. The medical staff was in and out of the room frequently with status updates. I was impressed with the care given and the service provided in what is a highly stressful environment for both the patient and the staff.

I also witnessed how excellent communication can win over customers when I was traveling recently. The flights to and from my destination were running late. As we sat on the runway waiting to depart, the pilot let us know what was going on and when we could expect to take off. Once in the air we experienced turbulence. The pilot informed us that we would be experiencing turbulence, when it would ease up and when to expect more. Although my palms were sweaty during that entire flight the pilot eased my concern and stress level by keeping us informed.

Poor communication is the quickest way to lose a customer for good. This I witnessed at a restaurant when a small group of us sat and waited for more than an hour for a simple lunch order to arrive. There was no communication to inform us when our meal might arrive. A one hour business lunch turned into a two hour frustration. Finally our food arrived without so much as an apology for the slow service or any effort among the wait staff to make it right. None of us will go back. It’s too bad.

The lesson here is that sometimes businesses have to deal with circumstances that create delays for customers. But a business can win over a customer by letting them know what is going on in a friendly, non-defensive manner. The next time you have a customer waiting in line, waiting for food, for medical treatment, for the flight to take off, the room to be ready or the waiting room to open up – take a moment and let them know how much longer they will be waiting. You will reduce their stress level and they will likely feel good about doing business with you even if it means waiting.

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