Someone once said to me that “customer service is a timeless necessity of business”.
I was never really quite sure what they meant by timeless, especially given that today we see big box stores where knowledgeable assistants are tough to find, we have self check outs in stores, bank machines and a general malaise in the art of pleasant conversation and manners from a great number of clerks and managers.
There is little doubt that businesses are realizing that service rules, and cutbacks in service staff that have lead to lost business will give way to a more customer friendly environments in the next few years.
I took a step back in time last week and spent a couple of days following the Amish Trail near Ellicottville New York.
It is a real eye opener to view first-hand the difference between a small town customer service mentality versus the big City (especially considering the dose of friendly customer service you get crossing borders) Whether it was a supermarket, a liquor store or one of the quaint little diners, the people were friendly, conversational and eager to engage and assist you. I found it interesting that one cashier even apologized to me because she had to charge sales tax on the item I bought. Oh if she only knew that I was from Ontario!
As impressed as I was in town with the customer service, I was blown away when we visited a few of the Amish shops. A confectionary store invited us to try various candies and fudge before making a purchase. There was no concern for lost revenue, just for my satisfaction as a customer. The young lady even drew a map for us to a local quilt shop when we inquired about other stores to visit, despite the fact that there were other customers in the store. We weren’t rushed out to maximize sales!
At the quilt shop, we were welcomed by an Amish couple and one of their young sons. She was proud of her work and patiently rolled through many quilts describing the patterns and the colour blends.
I enjoyed a wonderful, funny conversation with the husband as he spoke about their 15 children, the Amish lifestyle and even my car computer (GPS). The Quilt and Gift Shop run by Mattie was one of the highlights of the weekend. The level of service was incredible, they were happy to see us, and seemed very pleased, not with the fact that our friends and I bought two quilts, but that we recognized the quality of workmanship and time involved in making a quilt. As I joked with them about paying by Interact, she replied that a cheque was good enough. The level of trust and relationship building skills was incredible, and that is the lesson in achieving great customer service.
As we left the shop, I saw a small dog approaching, and between his paws for every step was a small kitten. I commented that not only were the interpersonal skills of the people great, it extended to the animals as well. Business owners who want or in some cases need to see first-hand what service is about should visit a small town on any given weekend.
A valuable lesson.