The Difference Between “polite” And “friendly”

Why is it so important for your customer service team (no matter how large or small) to be truly friendly instead of being coached to act “polite”?

Being just “Polite” can make customers feel uncomfortable, disconnected, and can often cost you new business or repeat business.

This past weekend a friend took my wife Melanie and I to one of the nicer restaurants in Orlando.

We were seated quickly with a smile and received “good” service. It was obvious the staff was well-disciplined and knew what to do in each situation, but we all felt uneasy, if not uncomfortable throughout the night.

The food was perfect and everything came on time.

I couldn’t put my finger on the problem until we were on the way home and my friend said: “Did you notice how fake the waiters/waitresses and shift managers were?”

They were all trained how to be polite, how to do their jobs, but they weren’t genuinely friendly. It wasn’t too difficult to tell they detested their task, and this is common in many customer service oriented roles.

How can you be sure your customer service team is capturing all of the sales and repeat business they can?

Since advertising can be expensive and a bit of a “buckshot” anyway (Unless you’re with DDD =o) you want to convert as many inbound calls and walk-ins as possible into new and repeat customers.
I know this is a painfully obvious statement, just roll with me here =o)

I challenge business owners and marketing managers (of all types of companies selling any product or service) to spend a day with your customer service department.

As you observe and interact with them, ask yourself some of the following questions:

Are they truly friendly people or are they just going through the motions?

Does this person or people have a true passion for your business, or did they just “need a job”?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d never imply you need to run out to the sales floor and fire your customer service department!

Sure, sometimes people just “need to go”, but try this with your sales / customer service team, then filter out the bad eggs if necessary:

Let them know how important they are to your business by spending an entire day (or more) working with them, taking calls, helping them with the customers.

They will appreciate the fact you have true empathy for what they go through everyday and they will be more loyal to you and your company.

They will feel more comfortable, relaxed and appreciated in their job and feel like a person who is vital to the success of himself and those around him….not like a robot in a cubicle.

You’ll also be surprised how much you learn about your customers and what they really want, so you can give your sales team the best tools to sell!

I’ve done my share of cubicle phone calls and more than my share of over-the-counter parts sales.

When the boss got involved and made calls with us, I always appreciated it and reminded me I need to have some fun and truly connect with the customers.

I eventually was promoted to manager, and I always made sure to spend some time everyday on the counter, pulling parts, on the register, instead of hiding in the office doing paperwork all day.