Getting Three Magic Words from Customers  . . . I’ll Be Back

"I'll be back" may be Arnold Schwarzenegger's catch phrase in the Terminator, but it’s also the phrase every company wants to hear from their customers.

But, Bob Farrell, the late motivational speaker and founder of Farrells ice cream parlors, says, “When a customer says 'I'll be back', those are magic words.”

You spend time training, planning and expense getting a customer in the door or on the telephone, and even more time and expense making sure their needs are taken care of when they arrive. "If they don’t say those magic words 'I'll be back' then you've lost the game," Bob says.

The Customer is the Boss

Bob would tell thousands of people over his years as a motivation speaker that at the heart of customer service is understanding that “the customer is the boss”.

Jack McMillian, former co-chairman of Nordstrom agrees. Nordstrom has set the standard for customer service and that's no accident. Customer service is the primary goal of the company.

5 Steps to Better Customers Service

Bob says there are simple steps to ensuring customers come back again and again.

1. Set customer service standards. Customer service stands not only need to come from the top, the top also needs to walk the talk. Employees need to see that upper management commitment. 

2. Make it right. Sometimes mistakes are made. Take the blame and make it right. Have the courage to step up and do what's necessary.

3. Be consistent. If you have set a high standard, it must stay high. Bob Farrell had a story he told to thousands to make this point. He had a customer who always got a free pickle with his hamburger. One day there was no pickle and when he asked for one, the waitress charged him. The customer wrote Mr. Farrell and told him he wouldn't be eating there again because of the service. Mr. Farrell's response? If a customer asks for a pickle, give the customer the pickle!

4. Keep your attitude in check.  You will have bad days, days you don’t want to smile for anyone. Before that happens, decide how you will maintain an upbeat attitude. Your customers will reflect your attitude--even over the phone. In short, grumpy service creates grumpy customers.

5. Help each other always. Lastly, Bob says, we need to continue to help each other reach our goals. It’s the secret to a successful life and business. Whether it's helping a co-worker reach his goals or customers to reach their goals.

Again, Jack McMillan agrees. He adds that developing a culture of service is key. "Serving people is helping them, but it's also helping you. It's a high calling."

If your company could improve its customer service, go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And you'll start hearing those magic words, "I'll be back."

Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.