For at least the first 14 years of my life, my father was the manager of the J.C. Penney store in Nebraska City, which has not been there for many decades now.
The company’s policy was, at that time, “The customer is always right.”
My sister still talks about the understanding smile my dad wore when he was working with an unhappy customer.
It is the atmosphere in which I was raised.
Yet, in today’s society, finding good customer service can be a problem. At some shops, especially in metro communities, the hired clerks could care less whether your questions are answered or not.
Last Friday, Plattsmouth Community Schools Superintendent Richard Hasty emailed me about doing a story on a new program in the district aimed to promote better communication between staff, students, parents, community members and visitors.
The program is based on five simple concepts.
The first is “Listen with an open mind.”
That’s a tough one. So many of us are so wrapped up in our own lives we don’t stop the conversation in our brains to hear others speak. Sometimes, people don’t listen because they are concentrating on what they are going to say in response as opposed to trying to hear the message being conveyed.
Barriers to listening carefully aren’t always the fault of the listener. Sometimes, external noises distract us as well.
To be a good listener, it’s important to face the person talking and look them in the eye. Maintain a friendly, open demeanor.
Most importantly, don’t interrupt and impose your own opinions on the situation before they have finished talking and you have a good understanding of their needs.
The second precept of the school’s program is “Recover well when mistakes are made.”
I have one relative who has told me many times, she will never admit to being wrong (no matter how wrong she is). She once insisted that it only took 30 minutes to get from Plattsmouth to Lincoln. I asked her to look on a map and she refused.
I think the insistence upon being “right” when you are definitely “wrong” makes a person look worse than just admitting to the mistake. But then again, that’s me.
We are human beings and none of us are perfect, so based on the district’s information, it’s important to “Acknowledge the mistake. Apologize sincerely and immediately and make an assurance there will “be an effort to prevent the mistake in the future.”
I don’t understand why people have so much trouble with this. Apologizing costs $0.00 and can go a long way in many instances.
Dr. Hasty puts a lot of importance, and rightfully so, on the third precept, responding in a timely manner. The school district is aiming at responses going out within a 24-hour period. It’s sometimes very challenging, but overall, I think most people who have concerns even expect a response in that time frame.
Waiting over 24 hours to get back to them generally causes more frustration.
Do I always get back to someone in this time period? No. But I should.
The fourth principle the district is promoting is “Own the problem and attempt to resolve it.”
I think this goes nicely with the second one of recovering well when mistakes are made.
Our goal in life should always be fair-minded resolutions no matter what walk of life you are in.
Sometimes I fear our country has lost its sense of fair-mindedness as so many of us have adopted a “Me, me, me” attitude.
We sometimes forget that age-old adage, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘teamwork.’”
The last behavior the district is promoting is “Use eye contact and a friendly greeting.”
When it comes to “friendly greetings” Hy-Vee comes to mind. The store’s training program stresses friendliness and customer satisfaction.
No one wants to shop in a store or eat in a restaurant where they are made to feel unwelcome.
Dr. Hasty said the school will be recognizing staff members who have demonstrated exceptional service on a monthly basis.
They will soon make nomination forms available to certified and non-certified staff, students and community members who would like to recommend someone for the recognition.
I think it’s a wonderful idea that is worth considering for any enterprise or business in which you are involved.
Thank you and don’t forget to come back again.
(For more information on Plattsmouth Community Schools new customer service program, see B8.)