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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

What is the quickest way to improve customer service?

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Smiling woman giving a thumbs up for good customer service

You walk into an office, a hotel, a restaurant, a store. What needs to happen for you to have a marvelous customer experience? I contend that very little separates a positive experience from a negative one. I contend that the difference is eye contact and a smile.

What are your customer service experiences?

You’ve had it happen to you. I know. It happens everywhere. Every day. You walk through a door, hoping to receive some type of service. But, instead of someone acknowledging your presence, acting glad to see you, and finding out what they can do to assist you, you feel invisible. My husband has even been known to say out loud, “Am I invisible?” just quiet enough to not be heard by the offender… I think.

You’ve also had the opposite happen. You walk through the door and someone looks up or turns and they notice you. They smile in your direction, obviously happy you arrived, and speak a greeting or give you a nod. This happens even if they are busy on the phone, on the computer, or with another guest. You are not ignored. Is this hard to do? I don’t think so. Why then, doesn’t everyone do it? Is it a lack of training? Do they not know the impact of this simple act of communication?

Customer service requires a connection.

We are social creatures. We thrive on connecting with others. A genuine smile and eye contact that expresses warmth and a desire to connect make us inclined to do business and recommend that business to others.

Conversely, a negative experience of being ignored or shunned has the opposite effect. Think of those times when someone made you feel like you were inconveniencing them by doing business with them. Not conducive to return business.

A previous blog covered the importance of smiling. The benefits of eye contact are numerous as well. Eye contact builds trust, a necessary element in building relationships. Eye contact makes us more credible. It solicits feedback, allowing us to problem-solve and improve.

Smiling and eye contact make a good first impression.

Both smiling and eye contact cost nothing to give and reap many rewards. Smiling and eye contact are essential at the start of a speech to make a good first impression and build rapport with an audience. As Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We may not realize the power of that first impression.

When a customer or audience has a negative impression we must work hard at changing it to a positive impression. This is because people generalize the actions and words of others to match their first impressions.

If an impression is positive, what is said or done is received in a positive light. If one has a negative impression, what is said and done is generalized as negative.

Are you looking to improve the customer service experience for your clients? Take a good, honest look through their eyes at the first impression they receive. Keep in mind that first impressions don’t just occur in person.

Smiling and recognition, or the lack thereof, can be perceived over the phone. First impressions are made via emails and texts and recorded messages. Even without emojis, “smile” each time you do “business.”

It costs no more to smile than to frown. It costs no more to make eye contact than to look away. The cost of not smiling and not making eye contact is great. It costs you your reputation, and in turn, current and future business.

Smiling and making eye contact not only make your customers feel good, they make you feel good, too. Even before you communicate with words, communicate with your eyes and a smile. It is a gift that will be returned.

“A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” ~ Victor Borge

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