Extreme Customer Service

Image: Bob RosnerHave you ever felt like you were an imposition on the staff of a retail chain? That somehow you were getting in the way of what they were meant to do—namely talk on the phone to their friends or discuss the social goings on of their fellow employees? You’re not alone (and yes, I’m a bit jaded on the current state of customer service).

Customer service seems on track to becoming the biggest oxymoronic statement this side of jumbo shrimp and military intelligence. But there is suddenly hope on the horizon and the lessons come from “Safecatch,” a Washington State program to thwart bank robberies.

No that was not a typo, bear with me and you’ll see what McGruff the crime dog can do to improve your business. First some background. Washington was at the top of the bank robbery charts in the United States. Who knew that the rain drove a percentage of the population indoors for this kind of activity?

Note the use of the past tense in describing the bank robbery status. Because suddenly robberies are down by almost half in Seattle, thanks to the Safecatch program. And it’s now being rolled out in cities across the state and country.

So what is the Safecatch secret? Armed security guards in every branch? Better alarms to signal the local police? Better exploding dye packs? Better profiling to spot potential bank robbers as soon as they enter the bank?

No. Safecatch has been called “customer service on steroids.” It’s a program where bank employees greet every person who enters the bank. Looks ‘em right in the eye and gives a big “Hello” and “How are you doing?” to every customer.

In this high tech age, it seems almost laughable that such a low-tech strategy would impact someone carrying a gun with an intent to relieve the bank of a pile of its cash. “Hello” and “How are you doing?” evoke quaint memories of a bygone era, not a cutting edge crime fighting strategy.

But it turns out that bank robbers often crave anonymity. They want to slink-in and slink-out all the while hardly making an impression on anyone. So many are unnerved when they are acknowledged and clearly recognized by someone.

“Hello” and “How are you doing?” How often do your customers get this basic acknowledgment in your business? Chances are, not as often as you think they do.

Even more important, how often are your employees acknowledged and recognized for their efforts? I know what you are thinking to yourself, acknowledge and recognize—isn’t that the purpose of a paycheck? Well yes, and no. Paychecks are great, but they quickly become wallpaper to the average employee. Something easily overlooked. Acknowledgement and recognition keep it real.

If a extreme customer services has had such a big impact on bank robberies, imagine what it will do for your employees and customers. Extreme indeed.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.