Red-Carpet Diem! Seize the Opportunity for Better Customer Service

| By Donna Cutting |

As a young girl, I watched from the window, enchanted as my Mom literally rolled out a red carpet on the sidewalk to welcome my grandparents home from their trip to Italy. To my starry-eyed sensibilities, it was as if my Memere & Pepere were the Hollywood elite!

This memory has stayed with me through my adult years and has influenced my own career as an author, speaker and customer service consultant. My entire company has been built on one question; “What kind of results could companies get if they treated every customer as if they were a star?”

A focus on customer experience, for companies large and small, could not be more imperative than it is today. Customers have more choices and louder voices than ever before, and one misstep by a single staff member could end up on Yelp, any number of social media sites, and even the evening news. Perhaps even worse, they could say nothing and simply start doing business with your competitor. In fact, a Harris In

Donna Cutting | Photo: TREADSHOTS.COM

Donna Cutting | Photo: TREADSHOTS.COM

teractive Study found that 86% of consumers stopped doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience.

Make no mistake about it; there is a direct link between customer service and your business success!

This can be good news, because when you truly roll out the red carpet for your customers, they will become devoted fans that run out and tell everyone they know. According to an American Express study, just one happy customer equals referrals to nine new customers! Great service gives your business the competitive advantage.

The key is in consistency; getting every staff member on the same page so they are rolling out that red carpet for every customer, at every touch point, every single time.

Here are 3 steps you can take to improve the customer experience at your business.

1. Expect: Good customer service is just common sense, right? Well… not necessarily. In so many businesses, different generations are working together and serving each other. You may have a variety of cultures represented in your staff, and everyone comes from a different home environment. So, what’s good customer service to one person is not necessarily what it is to another.

Business owners or managers must first create and communicate a vision of the experience they want to provide their customers. What are the expected service behaviors that every staff member must deliver on? Remember, your team can’t bring your vision to life until they know what it is.

Make sure your expectations are actionable and not vague. For instance, “we express excellence in all we do,” is vague. “We answer the phone within two rings using a cheerful voice” is actionable.

2. Empower: Once you’ve set those expectations, you’ve got to empower your team with training, tools and trust.

A heart for service can’t be trained. However, certain skills can! I’ve met many people who were filled with empathy and caring for the customer. What they lacked was confidence enough to make eye contact, or a strategy for handling upset customers. This is where training can help.

Empower them with tools to be able to do their job well, and trust them to make choices to keep customers happy. Be clear about where they can make a simple one-step decision (a free dessert to make up for the cold meal that was supposed to be hot); or when they need to call in a manager for help. If someone makes a misstep in the name of helping a customer, celebrate their initiative and then guide them to a better choice the next time.

3. Encourage: Once you’ve set clear expectations and given your team the training they need to deliver on them, encourage each person by remarking on their red carpet customer service!

Yes, we must hold our employees accountable to deliver on those expectations. However, in my experience, leaders get more engagement and better results when they focus on the positive examples first!

• Create a recognition program around your customer service expectations and celebrate every success!
• Read notes, letters, and social media praise from customers to your team.
• Make it easy for customers to praise your team with both print and online forms.
• When you see someone rolling out the red carpet for a customer let them know, as soon as possible, how much you appreciate it. Tell them what a difference they are making!
• Celebrate examples of red carpet customer service at your stand-up meetings. Look for every example of great service delivered by your team and share those at every opportunity.

You get what you focus on! So focus on fantastic customer service. Talk about it, celebrate it and reward it. Soon, you’ll see more of it.

Donna Cutting is an in-demand keynote speaker and the author of “501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implement Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers, and Leave a Lasting Impression.” She’s the Founder & CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Systems, a firm that provides tools and training to help leaders turn prospects into customers & customers into devoted fans. She’s spoken in 45 of the 50 states, but her favorite destination is Asheville, NC, where she lives with her husband Jim and their two rescue dogs. Visit her website at to download the free report: 21 Days of Thank You.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker