Steve Curtin

“Can I speak with your supervisor?”

This is the first post in a series that will explore a set of questions I received from participants during a webinar on the topic of customer service. (I say "explore" rather than "answer" because I've discovered over the years that there is rarely...

Crowd control

Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you find yourself overwhelmed by demanding customers who may feel entitled to immediate attention. Maybe a large tour group just arrived at your hotel or restaurant, or you're short-staffed due to job vacancies, call-offs, or lean scheduling,...

Exceptions create opportunities to provide exceptional customer service

Have you ever noticed the tendency of frontline employees to become defensive—even surly—when you bring a problem or misunderstanding to their attention? Unless your business has systemic, unresolved issues, problems, and misunderstandings are exceptions. By definition, exceptions do not conform to the general rule. This...

“Discerning” customers are not “difficult”

From time to time, seminar participants ask me, "What's the best way to deal with difficult customers?" My standard answer is: "They're only difficult if you've labeled them that way." I prefer the adjective "discerning" in place of "difficult." Consider the definitions of each: Discerning:…

Balancing enforcement and accommodation

Last week, I attended the U.S. Open in New York. While at Louis Armstrong Stadium, I encountered two stadium attendants: one who understood that his role was to serve spectators and another who viewed himself as an enforcer of stadium rules and tournament protocol. The...

“But I do everything I’m supposed to do.”

Last year I met with Zane, a manager of a fast-casual restaurant. During our conversation, he shared some of the recurring challenges he faces in trying to raise the level of service at his restaurant. One frustration he disclosed was the inability of his staff...

The problem with empathy

Earlier this year, I read a book by a colleague of mine, Jeff Toister, titled Service Failure: The Real Reasons Employees Struggle with Customer Service and What You Can Do About It. As the book's subtitle suggests, Jeff explores common obstacles that prevent customers from...

Exceptional customer service is customer-focused

This post is the seventh and final in a series that has fully explored the definition of customer service offered in an earlier post. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee's job role or, someone else's responsibility. Because of this...

Exceptional customer service requires extra effort

This post is the sixth in a series that will fully explore the definition of customer service offered in an earlier post. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee's job role or, someone else's responsibility. Because of this limited view...

Exceptional customer service requires desire

This post is the fifth in a series that will fully explore the definition of customer service offered in an earlier post. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee's job role or, someone else's responsibility. Because of this limited view...

Exceptional customer service is genuine

This post is the fourth in a series that will fully explore the definition of customer service offered in an earlier post. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee's job role or, someone else's responsibility. Because of this limited view...

Exceptional customer service demonstrates job essence

This post is the third in a series that will fully explore the definition of customer service offered in an earlier post. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee's job role or, someone else's responsibility. Because of this limited view...

Exceptional customer service requires action

This post is the second in a series of seven posts that will fully explore the definition of customer service offered in an earlier blog post. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, a designated employee's job role or, someone else's responsibility. Because...

Exceptional customer service is always voluntary

In an earlier blog post titled What is customer service?, I offered an 18-word definition of customer service containing seven unique elements that we'll be exploring one-by-one in greater detail over the coming weeks. Too often, customer service is viewed as a department, an employee's...

From Ordinary to Extraordinary

In 2011, I worked with a hotel general manager, Victor, in Boston. One observation he made was that, although his staff was friendly, there were numerous occasions when hotel employees would huddle in small groups and banter, some with their backs to hotel guests...

Customer service made easy

While reading The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, I came across the following quote: "(T)he key to (achieving desired results) is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as humanly possible. Identify the activation energy—the time, the choices, the...

Refocusing legacy staff

I often encounter managers who rightly cite the importance of selection in building a staff of exceptional customer service providers. But many of these same managers bemoan the difficulty of motivating those tenured employees whom they inherited to provide the same quality of customer...

Managing chatty customers

Yesterday morning, I had a 10:00am appointment and left a few minutes early in order to mail a package at the post office. Since time was an issue, I was glad to see only one person ahead of me at the counter. As I...

What is customer service?

There are as many definitions of "customer service" as there are customer service books and gurus. And, while there is no single correct definition, I would like to submit mine for consideration: Customer service is a voluntary act that demonstrates a genuine desire to satisfy,...

“I’m sorry. They’re all in meetings.”

Last week, I presented during a conference that was held at a full-service hotel in Denver. My contact at the event mentioned that, earlier that morning, he discovered the iron in his room was not working properly. He called downstairs to request a replacement...

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