Sunday, February 24, 2008

JWN: Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction

By: Joseph W. Norman

This weekend I spent some time in Baltimore visiting some old friends. It was a great time in the classic “vacation” sense. We ate out a lot in those few days; some good experiences and some not so good.

My body is a temple, but I treated it like a garbage dump this weekend. Thus, I’m looking forward to getting a little more produce in my life this week.

I try to stay positive with these columns. I’m not one to complain because I don’t believe it is productive for solving problems. In this particular case though, a few observations may help enlighten on what it means to be a satisfied customer.

My friends and I had absolutely terrible service at a restaurant we went to on Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t busy, but the service was unbearably slow. Our waitress was friendly and well intentioned, but she seemed to be operating on her own time.

Some servers can pull off few interactions during a very busy lunch rush if those stops are productive. But, this experience was far from that. She stopped in a lot, but she was not observant of the needs at the table and she had inordinately long hiatuses between her stops. In fact, when promising, “I’ll be right back,” she often would not make it back to the table for about fifteen minutes; even just for a refill on my water.

The piece that I find most compelling about this experience though was our natural reaction to her service. We’re pretty genial guys, so we did not complain. We were cordial, enjoyed our meal, left a below average tip, and moved on.

The only sign of our discontent was the tip which makes me wonder if she even picked up on our lack of satisfaction in the service. Judging by her poor observations of the table’s needs throughout our meal, I would say she probably just wrote us off as friendly but cheap. She probably did not even think that we might actually be generous tippers (which we are) that were simply unimpressed.

How does this relate to you?

You are in customer service. Everyday you interact with multitudes of people in your personal and professional lives. The question you need to ask is;

“How do I know my customers are satisfied?”

Professional Life:

- Ask them! Figure out your top customers and talk to them. See how you’re keeping a competitive edge.

- Get feedback during the act. Don’t let your client sleep on bad service. Ask them right then and there if they are satisfied.

- Be observant. Notice the subtle reactions they may have; body language, size of their tip, etcetera. Your customer’s actions will prove their true feelings.

- Figure out what you can do better. Research your clients and anticipate their needs before they ask you.

Personal Life:

- Ask if you’re holding up your end of the bargain. This can be in friendship, an intimate relationship, group work, etcetera.

- Think about what you can do to better serve your friends. Add value first. You will come away with the respect of others and more fulfilled.

- Reflect on the reactions of others. This comes back to being observant. Become a student of people.

These concepts will help you discover more about yourself and better satisfy others. I like to say, “Leadership is service.” I’d like to rephrase that now.

“Great leadership comes from exceptional service.”

How is my service? ~JWN

Joseph W. Norman, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Notable and Newsworthy can be reached at or 607.743.8569. He offers speaking engagements and personal coaching and is always up for a "business lunch." To receive the weekly eZine, The VIP Profiles, email or visit