You often hear of the positive power of a smile. A recent business trip brought this to light to me, as well as the negative power that is portrayed when it is missing. My colleague and I were on our way to see a client and we decided to stop and get a coffee. The first coffee shop we came upon is a nationally well-known one, and especially here in New England—and even especially more in Quincy, MA. It was a long drive and we still had a way to go. We were really looking forward to a nice coffee and having optimistic discussions about our upcoming meeting.
As we approached the counter, we were ignored for about minute while several employees chatted a bit amongst themselves. Of course, one minute can feel like ten when you are standing there awkwardly waiting for someone to acknowledge your presence. However, we patiently waited until the representative made eye contact with us. With no smile or greeting whatsoever, and with a clearly visible “I hate my job” look and tone, she said to us “What would you like?” We ordered, and once we got back to the car with our coffees, both looked at each other and at the very same time said “Wow!”. We could not believe the lack of customer service and left there feeling like we were a bother and not wanted. Why would we ever go back there? The answer is we wouldn’t, and we won’t. While the coffee was decent, the service certainly wasn’t.
As we reached our destination, we again stopped for another coffee, this time at another equally and nationally well-known coffee shop. That experience was the complete opposite. We were greeted with a smile, asked how our day was going, and how they could help us. We felt acknowledged, invited, appreciated, and left feeling quite pleased and positive.
This experience reminded me of a great article I read a few years back called 4 Reasons Why Excellent Customer Service Should Start With A Smile by Kaan Turnali in Digitalist Magazine. In the article, Kann explains that what’s often missing is a smile, a key element of customer service and business interactions.
Here are four reasons why excellent customer service should start with a smile:
- A smile is more than an expression
Smiling isn’t just something your face does. It communicates your state of mind. A smile—or the nonvisual sense of a smile for telephone customer service representatives—can be the most significant part of a business transaction. In retail, it can influence people’s perception of a brand and their customer satisfaction.
It can enhance the exchange of a product, the sharing of knowledge, or the offer of a solution As Internet and mobile commerce take market share from traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, smiling as a state of mind is more important than ever.
- A smile is more about a mindset
Smiling is as much a reflection of an organization as it is a validation of that organization’s promise. It helps form the customer’s first impression, an indication of a pledge to offer a satisfactory product or service. It plays a role in everything we do, in every transaction we touch, in our relationship with every customer we help. It starts before we first interact with our customers, and it certainly does not end when the transaction is complete.
- A smile is an attitude
Smiling tells our story beyond first impressions. It is a personal touch that extends our customer service promise and reflects our passion. Smiling says that we want to be here serving our clients and customers. It says that we are ready and willing to go the extra mile. And we smile even when we are not face-to-face with clients or customers. Our tone of voice on the phone and style of our correspondence communicate a virtual smile—or the lack thereof.
We cannot control everything that unfolds during customer interactions, but we always control the attitude we convey, such as amiability, energy and excitement, as well as commitment to satisfying the customer’s wants or needs. Even though a smile can’t solve every problem, in many cases, our attitude can triumph over many complications that can occur during the transaction and our smile can become a competitive edge.
- Most important: A smile is an invitation
Smiling sets a tone. It establishes a rapport and initiates trust, the cornerstone of every business relationship. This last point is more relevant than ever as we struggle to retain that integral factor in our fast-paced, smartphone-addicted, multitask-driven culture. Technological advances, globalization and new business models have us spending more time working remotely on our devices, which also makes us more remote.
Bottom line: Whether the transaction is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), a smile is one of the easiest components to get right. Omitting smiles from the equation leaves out the crucial ingredient in any business interaction.
So, as we learned from the experiences I shared above, it takes more than a good cup of coffee to keep customers coming back. Good service is just as important as a good product, and it all should begin with a smile.
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