By Carolyn Smith-Clark
All businesses have customer service and profit at the top of their objectives, because individuals and organizations understand the link between the two constructs. They are two sides of the same coin. Of the two very important business needs, profitability is an easier concept to grasp because it is a mathematical notion that’s not emotional by nature.
However, customer service is a very subjective idea between the receiver and giver. We each spend most of our lives being a customer and if we are honest, and much of our experience as a customer is not positive. That is why a positive customer experience is such a big deal.
For the business, it is challenging to figure out what will make the customer’s experience a positive one. Everything from product pricing to restroom cleanliness, from the clerk’s product knowledge to personality, dress, voice, smell, impact the customer experience in a positive or negative way. My first store manager Tom Ciechoski presented me with an excellent vision of customer service.
He emphasized that corporate policy is to greet customers as soon as they enter the store. But, Tom’s behavior went beyond just a verbal “hello.” Whenever possible, he came out from behind the counter and escorted the customer to the location of the part, not just pointing the direction to the correct aisle. Tom begins a relationship with the customer to help him solve his automotive problem, not just sell a part.
When the customer is rung out, which leads to profitability, they have had a positive customer experience because of Tom’s customer service behavior. My second store manager Luke Reeder also is a people person. He engages with the customers in a friendly, easy manor regardless of how busy he is with paperwork, inventory or personnel matters.
Both Tom and Luke always made me feel comfortable when I needed help finding a part for a customer. And, they never embarrassed me when I didn’t know something. After all, employees are also customers. So this is what I do to achieve the vision of customer service: Greet customers when they come in. Take them to the aisle whenever possible. Talk to them about what they are working on. Show interest in solving their automotive problem.
This all sounds easy but doing it 100 percent right 100 percent of the time takes work. When I am not in direct contact with a customer, I am still providing service by stocking shelves, cleaning floors, keeping the counter neat, taking out trash, and yes, even cleaning bathrooms.
As a mobile pro out of the store or on the phone in the store, I try to treat all customers as family, friends, or neighbors because many times they are. As the futurist Joel Barker says, “Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just uses up time, but vision with action can change the world.” Vision and action can help us make sure, “Service is our best part.”
Carolyn Smith-Clark, of Advance Auto Parts, Mt. Airy, Md., has been a part-time mobile pro for five years. She also is a contract instructor at the National Fire Academy where, among many topics, she teaches customer service.