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Still Jeff

9th of June 2000

     The recent story of a Chicago cocktail waitress receiving a $10,000 tip for a $9 bar tab got me thinking about service. Obviously the service by this particular student moonlighter impressed the patron, but certainly luck played a big part. Imagine if she had been in a grumpy mood.

     There are two large supermarket chains in the area where I live. At one, the employees are nearly always smiling, go out of their way to say nice things or be helpful, and genuinely seem to enjoy being there. At the other, the employees look tired, disinterested, gloomy — and it shows in their work. While waiting in checkout line you can hear cashiers asking each other how long they've been there, when is their next break, when can they go home.

     It's the same at all stores of that chain in this area. Not surprisingly, the chain is struggling. They used to dominate the market in this region. No longer. The newcomers with the smiley faces are eating them alive. Attentive service and positive attitude are the reasons. That comes from within, you can't force people to behave in a manner that is foreign to them.

     There is a restaurant chain where you can frequently find me for lunch. Popular in the Southeast, they have great food at reasonable prices, but they also have a friendly, helpful service staff. The waitresses call me honey or sweety and ask how I've been. They always make sure my glass is full and talk me into eating some veggies instead of fries. I return again and again, as much for the polite and cordial service I receive, as for the meal.

     Service like this can mean the difference between success or failure on your web site as well. Whether you are an online business or simply a helpware and community site like mine, going the extra mile to please your visitors will build reputation and repeat customers.

     Respond to email — personally, not with autoresponders. If you are selling something, do a little more. Offer some tips or advice, fun or interaction. Cold-hearted sell, sell, sell turns people off. Make it obvious you enjoy what you're doing. Inject some personality and passion into your words and deeds. Remember, not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.

     Get to know your guests. Strike up converstaions. Ask what is bothering them and what you can do with your site to make it better, to enhance their experience. Provide means of interaction through as many delivery mechanisms as possible. Telephone, fax, email, message boards, forums, guest books. The Internet is the world's fastest communication vehicle. If you provide satisfying service, you can leverage it for success.

Talk back

     The IB Community has been growing by leaps and bounds recently. The original contributions are coming in on a regular basis. I've fixed some bugs that plagued the forums in the early days, so if you tried to post, and couldn't, please come back now and try again. This community will only grow and expand with your support.

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