Making the customer feel special

Brad Worthley addresses the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce Nov. 13.

Brad Worthley addresses the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce Nov. 13.

Good customer service goes beyond just doing the job, and includes how people interact, speak and even walk. This according to a management consultant who addressed the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

“There is the stereotype about the used car salesman who won’t look you in the eye,” said Brad Worthley, a Bellevue resident who markets a series of CDs, DVDs and books that support his ideas. “But that extends to everyone. If someone stops looking you in the eye you should stop talking and wait for them to process the information before you start again.”

The theme of his address was surpassing customer’s expectations, and Worthley promised to deliver techniques that could be immediately applied to a business environment. He delivered, offering tips both broad and small about personal interaction. This was as simple as repeating someone’s name upon introduction, or as fundamental as changing how you listen to other people during a meeting.

There are three levels of listening, according to Worthley. The most common practice is to not really pay attention to what the other person is saying, but be more concerned with how they will respond. The second level is more active, and removes all of the distractions, such as turning off the TV when someone comes into the room to talk. The most active level places the listener into the head of the speaker.

“When you are selling someone a car you talk about the car,” he said. “When you are selling a house you talk about the house. But when you are selling yourself to someone, you talk about them.”

Worthley said that a person who doesn’t make eye contact isn’t necessarily shifty. On the other hand, people who actively maintain eye contact with their clients will provide a higher level of customer satisfaction and accordingly be more successful in business.

Worthley said that any business auditioning a new hire should conduct the initial portion of the interview over the phone. And employers should pass on anyone who lacks a compelling phone presence.

“If you don’t like their phone voice the customer might not either,” Worthley said. ”If someone has a flat, monotone voice the perception will be that they don’t care. If you can change your voice and make it a little more powerful the customers will respond. In some cases this only requires that you increase the volume around ten percent.”

Worthley said that the tone and inflection of a statement can be more important than the words themselves, providing demonstrations of how such nuances tell more of a truth than the statement itself.

Many bad habits will be hard to break. One in particular is the modern tendency to say “no problem” after being thanked. Worthley said this devalues the original sentiment, and a more appropriate response is to say “my pleasure.”

Perception can also govern reality in a business situation. Worthley told a story about a man who took his granddaughters downtown for candy, and heard that one shop was generous while another was stingy. Upon investigation he found that the former started with a small amount and added candy to reach a half pound, while the other started with a larger amount and subtracted. The amount was identical, but the perception was that one merchant was adding while another was taking something away.

“This one woman was losing business to the shop across the street and had no idea why,” he said.

Worthley said the best example of a franchise that consistently exceeds customer expectations is Les Schwab Tire Centers, which will fix anyone’s flat tire for free in order to earn future business.

“The first time I went in there to get a tire fixed they wouldn’t take my money,” he said. “They told me they wanted me to come back when I needed new tires. This turned me into an advocate for them, and I have talked about their business all over the world.”

Watch this video to hear about Worthley’s three categories of customers: