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Complete responses key to satisfying customers

There is a thin line between doing what needs to be done to create satisfied customers and leaving them dissatisfied. The difference can be as simple as how a service provider responds to a question.

Two stories – one told by a speaker colleague in Saskatoon and the other from a workshop participant in Fort McMurray – illustrate the difference service providers’ behaviour makes. Both women have food allergies and need to be careful about what they eat when dining out. As a precaution, they frequently ask servers about ingredients. How the servers responded affected the diners’ perception of the servers, and indeed, of the restaurants.

One diner asked whether the salad bar included English cucumbers or regular slicing cucumbers. “I don’t know,” the waitress responded. Only after being asked to do so did the waitress offer to find out.

In another restaurant, the diner asked whether the salad dressing contained any nut product. The answer was the same – “I don’t know,” the waiter replied – then he continued, “but I will find out for you.” He disappeared into the kitchen, where he checked the list of ingredients on the bottle of dressing before returning to report his findings to the diner.

Both diners received the information they requested. The difference is that the waiter in the second restaurant provided it without any prompting. He understood the importance of the information to his customer.

The outcome: one dissatisfied customer who is unlikely to return to the first restaurant and another who has a reason to return to her choice of restaurant because she feels this restaurant’s staff cares about her and her health.

The woman who told the first story diplomatically omitted the name of the restaurant. The second storyteller, on the other hand, made sure that everyone in the seminar knew the restaurant where she received the quality service that will bring her back.

Truly, the line between what customers perceive as good or poor service is very thin. On which side of the line do staff members put your organization? Do they anticipate the customer’s needs, or do they need prompting?


Nelson Scott offers several Customer Service Presentations, including Customer Service MAGIC: Changing Complainers into Loyal Customers; What Your Mother Taught You About Customer Service and other Training Resources developed by Service Quality Institute and the Vital Learning Corporation.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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