I have been in a heightened state of awareness around the nuances of experiencing great customer service. The basics of a positive customer service experience are easy to list from the service provider’s perspective. Show up with a positive attitude; smile. Act in a timely and responsive manner; take charge. Look for quick solutions; provide answers/alternatives. But what about the responsibility of the person looking for the positive customer service experience? What is their role in the process?

As I travel across the Atlantic on a cruise, I have observed some very simple but interesting actions that can dramatically change the customer service scenario. I fully understand that, in theory, the “customer is always right” and everything should be done to satisfy their request. That is nice to say but if the goal is to get your request fulfilled in the most satisfying way then realize that you play a role in making this happen.

Here are my five “common sense” tips to ensure a great customer service experience.

  1. Treat the person providing the service with the respect that they deserve. On the ship, the staff is from all over the world. They spend months on the ship providing never-ending service. It is their goal to make you have a great experience day in and day out. No matter what their role is on the ship, they deserve to be spoken to with the same respect that you want to receive from them. Believe me, this is not happening in most interactions that I have observed.
  2. Show up with a smile and look the person in the eye. At dinner the other night I observe a couple complaining about how their meal was prepared. They kept their eyes fixed on the meal, never looked up and focused on the problem. “How could this happen?” The waiter was trying to understand what they needed in order to fix the problem. She came with a positive, can-do, attitude, proposed some solutions and was attempting to move forward to make the couple happy. They continued to growl, pointing to the dish and making a scene. Did they really want the waiter to satisfy their request?
  3. Be reasonable in your requests. Your current service provider is not responsible for everything that has gone wrong in your life; all expectations that were left unmet by others. Leave your baggage behind. What would satisfy you in this situation? What was your original expectation? Was it unrealistic? Did you expect a Peter Lugar’s steak at McDonalds? Did you negotiate the price so hard that it took the incentive away from the party providing the service?
  4. In an ongoing situation, get to know who they are. The more that you try to build a relationship with this person, the more you likely they will go out of their way for you. People love to talk about themselves and when you demonstrate a genuine interest in their story, they will surpass expectations to make your life easier. When they ask how you are doing, ask them back the same question and then listen. According to most customer service folks (in person and on the phone) few people ever ask that question back.
  5. Acknowledge the fulfillment of the request. Say thank you! We live in a stroke-deprived world. It feels good when you get acknowledged, even when meeting expectations; reinforce the positive experience.

We all love a positive customer service experience. Look in the mirror, show up the way you want to be treated and the chance of receiving the experience you desire will be greatly enhanced.