Poor customer service is simply bad for business.
Conversely, great customer service can pay off greatly.
“The businesses that focus on customer service by far do the best,” said Jerry Jones, chapter president for Northern Arizona SCORE, a non-profit source of free, confidential business education and mentoring.
A company well known for its customer service is Dutch Bros. Coffee, which has a relatively new location in Prescott Valley. Though it’s only a drive-thru chain, a significant emphasis is placed on the way its employees interact with customers.
“Our co-founder, Travis, who is also our CEO, he’ll stand there with a coffee cup and say ‘you know what, we’re in the coffee business, but that’s not our product. We’re really in the relationship business and our product is love,’” said Jennifer Wheatley, senior director of Community Affairs.
This shines through as one visits any of the company’s locations. It’s not uncommon to receive some compliments or fist bumps from its high energy attendants and “bro-istas” while waiting for a pick-me-up beverage.
Customers are then asked to try their beverage. If it doesn’t sit well, the baristas will make something different on the spot with an apology and a smile.
“At the end of the day, we want the person to feel cared for and to leave happier, smiling and better than when they came in the door,” Wheatley said. “It’s kind of hard to miss.”
The strategy appears to be working, for the company has been growing at a healthy click. In 2015, it logged $283 million in system wide sales. In 2016, sales reached $350 million.
Step One Coffee House, a branch of Stepping Stones, a non-profit that provides support and services to women and children in need within West Yavapai communities, also takes the time to ensure quality customer service.
One way they do this is by making sure their baristas are passionate about the agency’s mission, said Brandon Duncanson, the shop’s manager.
“We’re committed to making great coffee and creating relationships with our friends and neighbors to help connect the community with our cause,” Duncanson said.
Jones said such effort needs to be made at the leadership level in order for it to permeate through the ranks.
“Customer service starts at the very top and you have to trickle it down through there,” Jones said.
Traditional businesses aren’t the only ones that see the value in customer service.
As part of its strategic plan, Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) recently decided to pump up the way it serves its students and parents.
“PR (public relations) is so important to us,” Superintendent Joe Howard said. “A few years ago, we weren’t in the graces of the community that we wanted to be in. When we got rolling with this team of principals, everyone pretty much said that it is non-negotiable that we have strong customer service, are very open, and create a culture where people are impressed and treated with great respect. It’s kind of a zero-tolerance thing with us.”
Starting this school year, principals within the district will host additional discussions with staff about what customer service practices they see as best and most reasonable.
“We’ll also create some parameters,” Howard said. “We don’t really have any formal parameters about how long you should let an email sit around before you respond to it, for example. A lot of us get hundreds of emails a day, so we’ll have to be realistic about that, but we want to get back to people promptly. Bottom line is: whatever interaction we have with anyone we want it to be positive.”
A perceived benefit of doing this is being more competitive in the education market.
“Our bread and butter is how many students we have and don’t have,” Howard said. “The state pays us by student, so if we don’t have students, then we lose teachers. The best way we can PR — which is what happens — is our teachers do a great job every day and kids go home and tell their parents how great it was.”
The hope is parents will then tell other parents how much their children enjoy attending schools in PUSD, and viola, free marketing.
“Word of mouth referrals are the best advertising a business can get,” Jones said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The Daily Courier recognizes that great customer service is not limited to two coffee shops and the Prescott Unified School District; to share your “best” customer service experience with our readers, email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Customer Service.