Financial Data
Updated 27 Sep 2020


What does great customer service actually mean?

Sure, it implies an excellent level of service, but it also means showing one’s appreciation for a customer’s business.


Basil O’Hagan, Entrepreneur, 24 November 2016  Share  0 comments  Print


All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

Rate our service

You find out how good your customer service is by asking your customers about it. It pays to conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys to check how you’re doing. These can be cards that you ask your customers to fill in while they’re in your store, or short online surveys that you email to your database.

These surveys should be short and succinct — no more than four or five questions — and easy to understand, fill in and submit. On the part of the respondent it should be incidental, but the info they provide is key.

Customers can be asked to rate their most recent visit, or the general quality of their various visits to your store. Once you tabulate the results, you’ll know exactly where you stand. Are you on the right track, or do you need to up your game? Either way, knowledge is power.

Related: Has your customer support lost that human touch?

Play the role you’re paid to play

There is a limitless number of challenging situations that can arise in the course of a work day. But a lot of them can be foreseen and prepared for.

The best way to prepare your employees for some classic workplace situations is by roleplaying.

Here’s how to do that:

  • You play the role of a customer in your store
  • Your staffers play themselves
  • You pose an unexpected problem
  • They react spontaneously as they would in that situation.

This type of roleplaying simulation is as close as you can get to a real workplace problem. It’s way more realistic than you questioning your staff, saying, “So, what would you do if…?”

This way, you can simulate complaints about poor service, a customer losing their temper — all the way up to how you would handle a load-shedding power outage.

These re-enactments aren’t just you checking up on your staff, they’re also a form of training. Your staff get to experience what a situation is like before they encounter it for the first time ‘live’ in the store.

The comfy waiting room

Waiting rooms don’t have to feel like the kind of place your soul goes to to die. I don’t know why, but they’re usually just some chairs and a table of old Readers Digest magazines from 1997.

Why not have a computer, an iPad, and some charging stations so people can charge their phones? How about free WiFi? You should also instal a television with DStv showing sport, movies, reality TV or news, depending on your customers.

A free, sophisticated coffee machine would surely be much appreciated, or a vending machine with snacks and cool drinks. This will do so much for customer satisfaction, not to mention employee morale.

There are many retail stores where part of the experience entails a short wait. This is an opportunity to improve your customer’s experience at your store or office, instead of making it worse. Have waiting areas air-conditioned, avoid loud music, and keep the lighting bright and upbeat.

Businesses that could benefit from upgraded, contemporary waiting areas include:

  • Doctors, dentists, etc.
  • Cellphone stores.
  • Car-repair garages
  • Tyre dealerships
  • Hair salons
  • Any office lobby, entrance hall or reception area.

Related: Go above and beyond with your customer service

The fastest ‘Hello’ in the West

Customer -service -greeting

Why not introduce a rule in your outlet that every customer entering the premises has to be greeted within ten seconds of setting foot in the door?

That’s not even particularly fast, to be honest. You could probably make sure you greet every customer within five seconds. The point is, you and your team need to welcome every customer into your place of business as quickly as humanly possible. These people have come to support you – they must be warmly acknowledged like the precious blessings they are.

Imagine if you were hosting a braai at your house and one of your guests came in through the door. Would you let them loiter in your entrance hall for a while before you bothered to go over and say hi? Of course not! You’d go right over there, shake their hand, say howzit and invite them inside. “What can I get you to drink?” you’d ask them. “Come through to the braai area!”

Also, if you’re seated when a customer enters your shop, pay them the respect of getting to your feet while you serve them. Stand up.

I walked into a major bookstore the other day and the lady at the check-out point as well as her manager were eating lunch, sitting down and talking to me. It left a poor impression. They should remember to treat their customers with warmth and hospitality. Make them feel at home.

Show Your Gratitude

Just as offering a warm, sincere “Hello” is vital, it’s also important to conclude your business dealings, with a heartfelt “Thank you.”

If you’re lucky, you might complete dozens of transactions in the course of a day. Be careful not to develop a mantra that you repeat verbatim every time you hand someone their debit card back, or give them their change.

“Thanks for coming.” “Cheers, thanks a lot.” “Have a nice day.” “Shot, drive safely.”

These all might have begun life as meaningful sentences, but if you robotically repeat them a few hundred times, they become meaningless — and your customer senses it. Particularly if you’re already scanning for a new customer as you hand them their change.

Instead of having a routine statement that you repeat every time when you finish dealing with a customer, thank them properly. Tell them sincerely how grateful you are for their business.

They’ll appreciate it, and they’ll be back.

Related: How Green Office understands the real meaning of customer service

Meanwhile, here’s a treat

Sometimes you have no alternative but to make your customers wait. Perhaps their table isn’t ready, their car is still being vacuumed, or your previous appointment is running longer than expected.

Think of novel ways of making this waiting experience as painless as possible. Even better, make it interesting. I don’t mean a pile of five-year-old magazines on a table. Try to come up with a distinctive, value-added feature that will win your customers over — even before they get to the main event.

How about a bowl of apples? Or free WiFi? Or a free drink at the bar while they wait? Having a distinctive protocol to ease the wait will set you apart from your competitors. You might even be remembered for it.

In the motor industry, waiting areas are very important. I don’t think enough motor dealerships and tyre dealers realise the importance of waiting areas. One day a manufacturer is going to design a waiting area that will stun the industry, and whoever that may be will immediately gain a competitive advantage! This will be a real customer-service ‘wow’!

Whatever you invest in your waiting room scheme, you will earn it back a hundredfold in repeat business. 

Entrepreneur Mag Logo

Copyright is owned by Entrepreneur Media SA and/or Entrepreneur Media Inc.
All rights reserved. Click here to read our editorial disclaimer.

Rate It12345rating

About the author


Basil O’Hagan, Entrepreneur

Basil O’Hagan is the founder of both O’Hagan’s and The Brazen Head. Today, he runs Basil O’Hagan Marketing, which serves chains, independent operations and small family businesses, pinpointing and overcoming problems through proven neighbourhood marketing solutions.

Introducing the theft & fidelity protection for your business

Theft and fidelity cover are often confused with each other. Bryan Verpoort discusses the difference between the two and why your business should be putting measures in place for both of these risks.

Login to comment