How to Improve Your Customer Service

How can you best evaluate whether your employees are providing good customer service? Kevin McCarney says you need to get out from behind your desk and engage your customers in conversations about their experience with your business.

McCarney is the founder of the Poquito Ma's restaurant chain and author of "The Secrets of Successful Communication." He has spent years studying customer behavior and communication practices, and has detailed many of those findings in his book.

Here are several things he has learned about how to become a better evaluator of whether employees are providing exceptional service to your customers.

Make contact

The University of Texas developed a matrix that offers several methods to evaluate customer service and lays out the pros and cons of each. McCarney sees value in the matrix but believes the scientific approach misses the most important component of any evaluation strategy.

"When you're just analyzing data and not talking to your customers, there's a lot you're going to be missing," McCarney says. "Whether you're a manufacturer or whether you're selling hamburgers on a street corner, if you're not specifically talking to your customers on an individual basis, it's missing a huge component.

"You're not going to get as good information with anything somebody has to fill out, or even in a focus group. Focus groups are good, but people sometimes posture in a focus group. So my sense is that talking to customers individually is the best tact. As much as you can, talk to them personally. Make it easy for them to talk to you."

Keep it simple

The larger your business gets, the more difficult it becomes to have that one-on-one contact with your customers. You should never abandon personal contact, but there are ways to make surveys more effective in getting the evaluation data you need. Whether you choose to do surveys over the phone, online or through the mail, keep them short and to the point.

"Send the person a very-easy-to-fill-out survey and certainly not the 60-question survey online," McCarney says. "Nobody has the time for that kind of thing. Did we do what we were supposed to do? Is there anything else we can do for you? Was there anything you weren't satisfied about?"

One area to avoid is demographic information, such as sex or age, if you really are interested in customer service evaluation. "In that case, they're saying it's not about you," McCarney says. "It's not about us being concerned about you. It's about us gathering information about our customers. Those are two different ideas."

Make it easy for people to talk to you, whether it's through a survey or by making a phone call. "The more open you are with your stream of communication, the easier it is for people to get in touch with you and the more information you're going to get," McCarney says.

Take responsibility

If you don't like what you hear as you evaluate your company's customer service, don't waste time blaming others. "You have to look at yourself because, ultimately, it's your responsibility," McCarney says. "It's up to me to look at myself and say, 'What am I doing wrong? What am I doing that is not getting the message across?'"

It takes time and effort to communicate with your customers, but it is an investment that is well worth it. By engaging customers to understand their experiences with your company, you can ensure that your employees are not only meeting their needs but exceeding them.


Ultimately, if you want to provide great customer service, according to McCarney you need to engage your customers to understand their concerns, keep all information gathering as simple as possible and then own up to any shortcomings that are identified. By doing all three steps, McCarney believes you can expect to see positive long-term results.


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