Why great customer service matters

I see and hear about exceptional customer service on a regular basis in Flint and Genesee County. Sometimes it’s as simple as the bank teller who makes a point to greet customers by name. Other times, it’s the grocery store bagger who grabs an umbrella and escorts a customer to her car during a downpour.

That kind of attention and care goes a long way in business. It builds customer loyalty and can even result in new clientele. According to a recent report from American Express, consumers will talk about a positive business experience with an average of 11 people. With a negative experience, they’ll tell 15 people about it.

If how you treat one person has the potential to impact the perspectives of at least 10, it pays to do it right. This is why the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce places so much emphasis on customer service through its Flint & Genesee Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program – which is designed to inspire hospitality employees to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience.

When a hospitality worker makes a customer feel valued, she isn’t just helping her employer’s bottom line. She’s helping build a positive destination image for Flint and Genesee County as a whole. That translates into better word-of-mouth about the region, which means more tourism business in the future.

One of my favorite exercises in the CTA course compares good customer service to great customer service. We hand each participant a sticky note and instruct them to stick it as high as they can on the wall. Once they do that, we hand them another sticky note and tell them to stick it higher than the first. The takeaway: You can always raise the bar.

Last year, our region generated $133 million in tourism spending. And in large part, that’s because of our local hoteliers and customer service professionals who went above and beyond to raise the bar. Reading this, are you reminded of someone who provides exceptional customer service?

Maybe a local bartender or a bus driver? Whoever it is, I encourage you to consider nominating him or her for one of this year’s Art of Achievement Awards. This annual event celebrates outstanding business and community leadership, and multiple awards focus specifically on customer service.

Nominations will be accepted through Oct. 26 at www.flintandgenesee.org/aoaa, and all nominees will be invited to the Nov. 8 event. It’s a wonderful way to bring attention to the people who make this region a great place to live, visit and do business.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning how to sharpen your own customer service skills, the Chamber is teaming up with Zingtrain to offer “The Art of Giving Great Service” on Sept. 10. To learn more about this four-hour workshop, which explores the innovative service philosophy at Ann Arbor-based Zingerman’s, visit www.flintandgenesee.org/events.

DeAndra Larkin is Group Vice President at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

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