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 Giving a lesson in customer service

SE Living Editor

You’ve probably figured out by now that I keep the Southeast King County economy afloat — probably almost single-handedly.

In other words, I spend a lot of time, energy and money shopping and eating out. Recently, though, I feel the service I get has taken a plunge.

Would it kill to be friendly to a customer? Or helpful?

I’ll share a couple of recent stories. You be the judge.

I ordered macaroni and cheese and a Caesar salad at a Kent restaurant a few weeks ago. I got mac and cheese but no molten cheese sauce — the whole point, if you ask me. Thankfully, I noticed that before I drove back to work and went back in to get the it.

I didn’t notice, however, until I was back at work that the salad had no dressing, either on it or on the side. I tossed (no pun intended) the $8 salad and phoned the restaurant. The bartender was apologetic — and pleasant (as was I) — and she promised me a free salad next time and the manager added a $10 gift certificate.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s really nice.” And more than I expected.

Of course, two weeks later when I tried to collect, a different bartender rudely said she knew nothing about the free salad but offered to give me half off. I declined the offer, saying I’d get the free salad later. She grumbled and then grudgingly took the salad off my bill. I still haven’t seen the gift certificate the manager was supposed to send me.

Lesson: If you promise a customer something to make up for a mistake, make sure you deliver, preferably without a hassle. I know that mistakes happen, but business owners can’t afford to screw up the compensation.

Another example is a recent trip to a new department store. I went to the jewelry counter to buy a watch. Two employees stood talking to each other. They saw me looking and waiting for help. They kept talking. I waited a full five minutes.

Who finally helped me? The watch-company sales rep who was visiting the store. She graciously answered my questions and gave me advice. When I left, I decided I wouldn’t buy a watch at that store if it were the last store on Earth.

Lesson: You’re paid to work. Socializing is fine, but help the customers first.

Maybe it’s me, but shouldn’t good customer service be common sense (and practice)?

If you’re in the service business, please remember that a smile and a little help go a long way. You want customers back.

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