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The 1st Step of Service: Be Eager to Serve

By Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM
May 3, 2011

Have you ever walked into a business and left before you were served?  That scenario has happened to me multiple times.  On past occasions, I left because the staff showed no sense of urgency to be of service. Please note that the business(s) had the product or service I wanted, but I left because there was an obvious sense of apathy among the staff. Yes, your customers can feel the apathy; especially if the majority of the staff look like they would much rather be anywhere else besides work.

Example 1:
I was at a hotel recently and getting ready to check out. I had two bags with me and while approaching the front desk, I saw the front desk agent and the bellman casually talking. I could tell it was a casual conversation based on their postures. The agent was slouched over the desk, the bellman was leaning on the desk with one elbow, and his feet were crossed. I know that co-workers are often times good friends so casual conversations amongst the staff are to be expected. However, if a customer approaches, PLEASE stop the chit-chat, assume a professional posture, give eye-contact, smile, and welcome the customers as though you have been waiting just for them all day. So as I approached the desk, the front desk agent and bellman continued to chat. Even when I actually got to the desk and looking both of them in their eyes, there was still no change. I (the guest) had to be the one to say “Good Morning”. [Note: If your customer has to acknowledge you first, then you have failed.] Being eager to serve shows that you hardly can wait to serve your customers, and it shows in your eye contact, tone of voice, and overall body language.

Example 2:

The phenomena of the customer being the first one to give a greeting is more common than you may think. On a recent trip to the shopping mall, I decided to keep track of how many times I said “hello” or “good afternoon” before the store attendant did. Each time, I waited until the attendant saw me, then waited at least 25 seconds while I was directly in front of the attendant. In other words, I gave ample opportunity for the attendants to greet me first. On three different occasions within a 30-minute span, I was the one who had to say hello first in order for someone to acknowledge that I was in their store and needed assistance. Not good.  <>

Example 3:

On a recent trip to Texas, I was on my way to pick up my rental car at the Austin International Airport. As I was walking to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car parking lot, I noticed one of the employees walking towards my direction. I thought he was going to the airport terminal where I just came from.  As it turns out, he was actually walking towards me to greet me! He met me halfway between where I was and the rental car booth. That rental car agent was eager to serve.

Many people believe that the greeting is the first step of service, when in fact, being eager to serve happens before the greeting. Being eager to serve means that you are constantly looking for ways to engage your customers. Many of you reading this have heard of the 10 feet / 4 feet rule (or 3 meters / 1.2 meters). Basically, if a customer is within 10 feet of you, give eye contact, smile…(at the very least, acknowledge that the customer is alive!). If you are within 4 feet, then you initiate dialogue, offer assistance, etc. So if you are in an elevator and a customer comes into the same elevator, you are automatically within the 4-feet rule. This means, you are not allowed to look down at the floor or look at the elevator numbers passing by, hoping that your floor comes soon (so you won’t have to speak). I have seen that transpire many times also.

The purpose of being eager to serve is to show your customers that there is nothing more important, at that moment, than serving them. Your actions should say, I am at your service. So, instead of walking out of a business because of the apathetic staff, the eagerness of the team should pique your interest and have you wondering, “WOW, I can’t wait to experience the rest of the service”. If your goal is to create an exceptional experience for your customers, then you must be attentive…be hospitable…be memorable, and above all, be eager to serve.

Recommended Action Steps:

  1. With input from your team and customers, develop standards that clearly articulates your expectations on “being eager to serve”. For example:
    1. We will answer the phone within three rings and a smile
    2. If someone is within 4 feet (1.2 meters), we will proactively approach the customer and offer assistance
    3. Reply to emails by the end of the business day
    4. Greet others with a smile, whether in a person or on the phone
    5. Give all customers 100% of your time and focus when serving them.
  1. Develop a metric for every standard. For example:
    1. We will answer the phone…(metric: question on customer survey)
    2. If someone is within 4 feet…(metric: random weekly observations per employee) 
  1. Regularly audit the standard to ensure that it is happening as planned. Remember, inspect what you expect and give your team feedback.
  1. Ask a randomly selected group of loyal customers to inspect the standard and give you feedback. Of course, you should relay that feedback to your team as soon as possible.


B.Williams Enterprise Updates: 

* Check out Bryan's new video clip about "Being an Ambassador":

* Be sure to read our new "Work Like You Own It!" blog entry. This new entry features a world-class retirement community in Portland, Oregon. This WOW story is exactly what working like you own it is all about!

* We also have a brand new feature, called "Interview with a Service Superstar" These service superstars consistently work with pride, passion, and professionalism. The purpose of these interviews is to gain some insight into how these world-class service professionals approach their job and what is needed to keep them motivated.

About the Author
Dr. Bryan K. Williams is the Chief Service Officer of B.Williams Enterprise, and the author of Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar. Bryan’s passion is world-class customer service, and has facilitated workshops and delivered keynotes all over the world for various companies.  He speaks on a variety of topics related to service excellence, employee engagement, and organizational improvement.  As a consultant, Bryan works closely with companies to design, develop, and implement sustainable service strategies. His company’s online store includes a growing collection of customer service products that are well-suited for your training library.


Order Bryan’s new book and other resources
 at the B.Williams Enterprise Online Store

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-We exist to serve others so they may better serve the world


B. Williams Enterprise, LLC 
Phone: 240-401-6958 

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Also See: World-Class Service: The Double-Platinum Rule 2.0 / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / April 2011

Customer Problem Resolution: The 100% Principle / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / March 2011

World-Class Service 102: Be memorable / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / February 2011

Take your service to the next level: Only BIG WOW’s…No bow-wow’s / Dr. Bryan K. Williams, DM / February 2011

Service Excellence: Inspect What You Expect / Bryan K. Williams, D.M. / November 2010

Work Like You Own It 2.0; Energize it. Recognize it. Celebrate it. / Bryan K. Williams, D.M. / September 2010

World-Class Service 101: Know the difference between meeting and exceeding expectations / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / July 2010

Service Superstars Part 2: Treat them like they own it! / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / June 2010

Make each touchpoint memorable: Cha-Ching! / Dr. Bryan K. Williams / April 2010

Service Superstars: Work like you own it! / Bryan Williams / February 2010

Complimentary resources from Bryan K. Williams and B.Williams Enterprise! Begin 2010 with a focus on world-class service. / January 2010

Service Ambassadors: The Key to Providing World-Class Service / Bryan K. Williams / November 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 3 / Bryan K. Williams / September 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 2 / Bryan K. Williams / August 2009

5-Star Employees - Part 1/ Bryan K. Williams / July 2009

Engaging Service: 22 Ways to Become a Service Superstar / Bryan K. Williams / July 2009

Complimentary tele-seminars with Bryan K. Williams in July! / July 2009

Building a Team of Living It Employees / Bryan K. Williams / June 2009

World-Class Service: What if every employee served like a concierge? / Byran K Williams / March 2009

5 Star Leadership: What Does It Take to Be a 5-star Leader? / Byran Williams / February 2009

5 Stars vs. 4 Stars: What’s the Difference? / Byran Williams / January 2009

Complimentary training with Bryan Williams / January 2009

The 7 Principles of EngageMeTM is now available! / Bryan K. Williams / November 2008

Hiring and Engaging a World-Class Team / Bryan K. Williams / October 2008

Great Ideas for National Customer Service Week 2008 / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service Part 3: Company Service Standards / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service Pt. 2: Personal Service Standards / Bryan K. Williams / September 2008

Delivering World-Class Service: Function vs. Purpose / Bryan K. Williams / August 2008

Guest Problem Resolution 101: Power of the Follow-Up / Bryan K. Williams / June 2008

7 Principles to Fully Engage Your Customers – Part 2 / Bryan K. Williams / May 2008

7 Principles to Fully Engage Your Customers / Bryan K. Williams / April 2008

I Am a Service Professional™ / Bryan K. Williams / March 2008

Engage Every Customer…One Touchpoint at a Time / Bryan K. Williams / January 2008

Engaging Service Part 2: It’s All About the Culture / Bryan K. Williams / December 2007

Engaging Service Part 1: Not Just for the Chic / Bryan K. Williams / November 2007

Service Excellence: A Destination or a Journey? / Bryan K. Williams / October 2007

National Customer Service Week is Coming Soon - October 1-5, 2007 / September 2007

National Customer Service Week is Coming Soon - October 1-5, 2007 / September 2007

Engage Me…the Voice of Your Customer / September 2007

Customer Engagement: Where do we begin? / Byran K Williams / August 2007

Engage Me…the Voice of Your Customer / / August 2007

B. Williams Enterprise, LLC Launches Engage Me…  the Voice of Your Customer / August 2007

To Engage…Listen to the Voice of Your Customer / Byran K Williams / August 2007

To Engage the Guest, You Must Engage Those Who Directly Serve the Guest / Byran K Williams / July 2007

Three Service Rules: The Golden Rule, Platinum Rule, and Double Platinum Rule/ Byran K Williams / June 2007

The Greatest Bellman I Ever Met… / Bryan K. Williams / April 2006

Sorry to Say…But Some People Should Not be Serving Other Human Beings / Bryan K Williams / October 2006

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