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Six Steps of Customer Service

by John Tschohl - August 9, 2010

6 Steps of Customer Service by John Tschohl

  Customer service. It’s a phrase freely tossed around by everyone from multi-million dollar corporations to mom-and-pop businesses in hopes of luring customers with the promise of exceptional service. All too often, it’s an empty promise that results in customers who disappear,
taking with them any hopes of increased sales and profits, says John Tschohl, founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“Customer service includes everything from greeting a customer and thanking her for her business to delivering what you promise and doing whatever it takes to satisfy the customer,” says Tschohl, whose company has developed more than 26 customer-service training programs for clients throughout the world. “Providing your customers with exceptional service will give you and your organization a competitive edge by increasing customer loyalty.”

When Tschohl launched his first customer-service training program in
January 1980, he based it on six principles. “Those principles are as
valid today as they were then,” he says. They are as follows:

  1. Feel good about yourself. “We tend to live in a negative world and
    to think negatively,” Tschohl says. “It’s critical that you feel good
    about yourself, that you are confident, enthusiastic, and positive.
    Each of us is responsible for how we feel about ourselves. You must
    believe in yourself, concentrate on your strengths, and recognize the
    importance of your role. Use affirmations and visualization. Read books
    on self-improvement and strive to be the best you can be. See yourself
    as you can be, not as you are.”
  2. Be courteous. “It takes no more time to be nice and polite than it
    does to be rude,” Tschohl says. “Every customer wants to feel important
    to you and your organization. Treat them with courtesy and respect.
    When you do, they will return to you time and time again.”
  3. Give positive communication. “Smile, call customers by name, and
    give specific, genuine, sincere, and timely feedback,” Tschohl says.
    “When you communicate positively, you form a connection with the
    customer that says, ‘I am pleased that you patronized my organization, I
    value you, and I am here to ensure your needs are met.’”
  4. Perform for the customer. “Customers have the right to demand
    performance,” Tschohl says. “They aren’t interested in your problems
    and excuses; they want you to take care of them. You can be polite and
    courteous but, if you don’t do what you say you will do, you will not
    meet the standards of good customer service. If you say you’ll call a
    customer on Tuesday, do it. If you say you’ll ship the product on
    Friday, do it. Do what you say you will do—and do it with speed and
    accuracy. If you ship a product when you say you will, but you ship the
    wrong product, you’ve taken a giant step backward.”
  5. Listen carefully. “Few employees do this,” Tschohl says. “If you
    don’t listen to what the customer is telling you, you cannot give that
    customer what he needs. Listen to the customer, then clarify what he
    has said by repeating it: ‘Ted, let me repeat what you said so I’m sure
    I’m on the right track.’ Ask questions, get involved, and show that you
  6. Learn and grow in your job. “If a customer asks you to explain the
    difference between product A and product B, she’s asking you to provide
    more than the difference in price,” Tschohl says. “Study your
    organization’s products and services—as well as those of your
    competitors—so that you can provide your customers with the information
    they need to make a purchase decision.”

Tschohl admits that these six principles might appear to be common
sense, but he adds that common sense seems to be in short supply these
days. “If you focus on these principles, these fundamentals of customer
service, you will keep your current customers and attract new
customers. You also will greatly increase your chances of being

For a free copy of Tschohl’s Personal Success Plan for Excellence in
Customer Service, log on to and click on
“brochure request.”

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