Thursday 23 January 2020

Problem Solver: Old-style approach to excellent customer service still in fashion

Small Business Advice with Feargal Quinn

The personal touch: ‘People rate their experiences in a business based on the people they meet rather than on the business itself’ Stock Image
The personal touch: ‘People rate their experiences in a business based on the people they meet rather than on the business itself’ Stock Image

Feargal Quinn

Q Are old-fashioned customer-service skills like greeting a customer, and offering to help when a customer is in need now out of date? Some customer-service experts now seem to suggest a whole new approach.

A Absolutely not. Great customer service is about a staff member showing genuine interest in a customer. You can dress that up whatever way you want but at the end of the day, if you feel treated like an individual, as a customer, in any establishment, then you are likely to return there again and again.

This is opposed to somewhere else where the interaction is anonymous and more process-driven.

People buy from people, and people rate their experiences in a business based on the people they meet rather than on the business itself.

Don't let anyone try and persuade you that greeting customers, having an informed and knowledgeable workforce, and working hard to make the experience special for each customer is not important.

Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and think about places you like to return to.

They will all be the establishments where the staff go out of their way to offer a genuine level of service where they are interested in your needs for those few moments when you interact with them.

You could certainly add to the basic skills and technology has a certain part to play in service today.

But you can't beat the core traits which have been in place for decades as part of a strategy to underpin your customer service offering.


Q I run a manufacturing business. My production manager is a law unto himself and quite honestly I don't have control of this part of the business. Despite repeated encouragement I cannot get him to do courses or upskill and I am almost at a point where he is giving me instruction rather than the other way around.

A This is a serious situation and one that needs to be addressed without delay. The problem may lie partially on your side. For someone else to be 'calling the shots' suggests that you haven't challenged this behaviour and you have tolerated it over a period of time.

Your production manager is there to support the needs of the business and to take direction from you to achieve this.

It appears that he feels he now has the monopoly on all of the decision-making and is sending a coded message to you that your opinion and decisions don't count.

Before you tackle anything, you might want to engage the services of a HR mentor who would be able to give you some tips in terms of language to use and give you a sense of confidence on how to tackle the situation. I would recommend a phased approach to the situation.

Start and sit down with the production manager and have a conversation with him about the business strategy and in particular where the production element of the business sits within this.

Talk in particular about the importance of his role to the deliverance of the strategy in line with the needs of the business.

Have a discussion about how you see communication operating and where it could be improved and also have a discussion about the line of command in the business which you need followed.

The important next step is to put this to the test.

If anything occurs after this meeting which is not in line with what is agreed, the important thing is that you pull him up immediately and point out that this is not in line with the needs of the business, and is not in line with what you had agreed.

Very often someone that is behaving in an unruly fashion is doing so because they are not chastised by their manager.

He will learn very quickly that you are serious about these changes and that should be the end of the problem.

There is a possibility that the issue may persist at which point you may have to move into a more formal disciplinary route but do try the softer coaching approach first.

What is critical in all of this is that you tackle the issue immediately and get expert advice to help you to do so.

Otherwise this could cause your business untold damage if you don't get control of it.

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