Lasting impressions

Few things in life leave a stronger impression than how you’re treated by an organization as one of its customers.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the neighborhood grocery store or pharmacy, a big box retailer, restaurant, financial services firm or arts center, but whether you feel satisfied, wowed or disgruntled from your experience will influence your future encounters. And when you’re scrutinizing every dollar that you or your company spends, it doesn’t take much to realize that glowing word-of-mouth referrals or ear-bending complaints can make or break a business.

When you’re stranded in line at a store for 10 minutes because the clerk at the checkout register is busy yapping away with a co-worker rather than ringing up customers, you’ll remember the wait and the rude clerk the next time you decide where to shop.

When your server forgets to bring part of your meal or it requires numerous requests for a drink refill, you’ll keep that in mind when it’s time to ante up the tip and the next time you’re considering where to eat.

And when your credit card company raises your interest rate, along with millions of other customers who paid their accounts on time each month, you’ll remember that the next time you reach into your wallet for something to pay with.

Conversely, when your experience is positive — an airline staffer that upgrades you at no charge to first class or a restaurant manager who brings out a free dessert — you’ll remember that, too, and likely spread the word.

Later this month, Smart Business will recognize 30 organizations that have demonstrated their commitment to delivering world-class customer service.

They understand how to go above and beyond for customers, clients and vendors, essentially rendering price irrelevant. They have systems in place that ensure consistency with every encounter. They know how to make their employees feel valued.

And they have cracked the code on how to develop company cultures where delivering top-notch service isn’t just an idea, it’s a promise woven directly into the corporate fabric.

In good times and bad, your customer service experience is every bit as important as price points and merchandise quality. Those who deliver service well will reap the benefits of economic growth.

But those who ply it poorly will eventually suffer the consequences and a sadder fate.

Contact executive editor Dustin S. Klein at [email protected].