The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

December 18, 2008

From the Publisher's Desk: Customer service is a lost art


'Tis the season to be jolly.

That thought, expressed in the Christmas carol "Deck The Halls," certainly has not been evident in my experience this year.

Whether it is the reality of our current economic times or the stress of finding the perfect gift, customer service has seemed to fall by the wayside.

Certainly I cannot claim that The Daily Star has always had the most stellar reputation in this area, but each phone call, e-mail or inquiry gives us the opportunity for better service than the last.

My team knows I expect phones to be answered by the third ring with a pleasant identifying greeting, and voice mails are to be returned in a timely manner.

We have standards that run throughout our organization as benchmarks to provide the service our clients should expect and _ quite frankly _ what we should provide.

I know the concept is basic, yet my experience over the last few weeks has left me wondering, why does customer service no longer seem to be a focal point?

Standing in line at a store while waiting to check out, I was behind a woman toting an armful of items.

We started talking about the clerk behind the counter. His sheer rudeness was shocking. Knowing the owners of the shop, I knew this was not how they wanted their business represented.

The clerk could not be bothered and was huffing and slamming items on the counter because the computerized register had not logged a sale price properly.

I commented to the woman in front of me that it wasn't a big deal to correct the problem, and she nodded in agreement.

The customer checking out had an appalled look as the clerk continued his tantrum. You could tell that she was biting back a response, and I must say, she was far more tolerant and patient with the clerk's tirade than I might have been.

After about five minutes, she apparently had enough and said, "You know what, just forget it," and walked out of the store without purchasing her items.

I thought, "Good for her," but when I looked at the clerk, he just shrugged and moved on to the next customer. It was sad that the obvious message of her action left no impact.

Vying for every dollar in this tight spending market is imperative for many businesses. No one needs to lose a sale or repeat customer because of a poor experience.

Customer service is an art and a skill. Too often, we forget how important it really is.

The following week, I ran into a member of my staff and his girlfriend while shopping on a weekend.

On Monday, we started to chat. He said that his girlfriend commented that I had smiled at her and asked who I was.

After he explained that I was the publisher, she asked if I was always that happy. I was proud that he responded, "Oh yeah, that's Tanya. She always has a smile on her face."

So remember, it won't hurt and doesn't take a huge effort to add a smile or wish someone a happy and safe holiday season.

It might brighten someone's gloomy day, especially in these hard times, and being pleasant is contagious.

But these stressful times have not done wonders for my quit-smoking campaign. My doctor's appointment is set to explore some help to get over the hump and kick the habit for good!

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Tanya Shalor is publisher of The Daily Star and may be reached at (607) 432-1000, ext. 214, or tshalor@thedailystar.com. Her column appears every other week.