Customer service words of wisdom

By Jeff Sheets

With the opportunity to reach out to you each month, my goal is to help you find ways to make your business better. One of my other goals is to do this differently than others. If you’ve read my articles in Outdoor Power Equipment during the past couple of years, you’ve probably picked up on my tendency to end each article with an inspirational quote to reinforce the takeaway value of the article. Even though I am writing something fresh, I know that someone out there has said or written something before that relates to the subject matter of my article.

This month, I am taking a different approach and using the quotes of others to drive the article. Sometimes, a great quote can be something we remember to motivate us or get us through those tough times when we second-guess ourselves. Customer service plays an important role in determining whether you succeed or fail in your business. Those who do it well, will prevail over those who don’t. Never take your customers for granted, and always strive to relate to them better in every conceivable way.

— James “Cash” Penney

One of my favorite things about James “Cash” Penney is that during his lifetime, he continued working in his stores as long as he possibly could, training employees and working with customers. Sam Walton worked at J.C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa, and Penney taught him how to wrap packages; Penney was 65 years old at the time he did that in 1940. Penney credited his success to his philosophy in working with customers and how to treat them properly. He started with three stores in 1907, and when he died in 1971, more than 2,000 J.C. Penney stores were in operation. Penney’s quote is simple, but so true. I’m sure all of you love it when someone refers a new customer to you. It lets you know you’re doing something right and keeps you on the path of good customer service. Penney is also famous for saying, “Treat your customers as you would want to be treated.” This is a nod to the “Golden Rule.” Penney worked for the Golden Rule department store as a young man and bought several of its stores to start his company. This is an important way to think when dealing with people. How would I want to be treated? If you ask yourself this question, your answer can help to produce a better customer service outcome for you and your customers.

— Sir Frederick Henry Royce

Henry Royce was an engineer by trade and helped establish Rolls-Royce Limited. He was known for his perfectionist tendencies, and even though he employed many engineers to design his products, he would go over those products in great detail to make sure they were “up to his standards.” The legacy he created has kept this company running like a well-oiled machine even today. Rolls-Royce cars are not “manufactured” — they are created with the customer in mind. Only 4,063 were sold in 2014, but they sold for an average price of $500,000. I know sometimes it seems everyone wants to beat you up with regard to price, but just remember Royce’s quote and remind your customers of it. How many times can you remember buying a quality product and it lasting forever? When possible, you need to emphasize this point and make sure your employees understand it too. You want your customers to come back because of this and refer others to you. Your whole goal should be to provide not just a quality product, but also a quality experience in your store whenever your customers return.

— Jeff Bezos, Amazon

As a kid, I remember my mom ordering from the Sears catalog, especially for Christmas. Somewhere in the 1980s or so, people decided catalog shopping was dead, and most of the giants in the industry went to more retail locations. The landscape changed with the Internet, and Amazon seized the opportunity. If you have ordered from Amazon or are a Prime Member, you know that the company does its best to deliver outstanding service. My orders have always arrived on time, and I am always given a chance to rate the service or merchandise that I’ve received. You can always learn from successful companies, and since a lot of dealers now do sell products through the Internet, you need to make sure you’re providing the best possible customer service even to people living outside of your market area. A follow-up phone call or email with a “Hey, how did we do?” is important. Those follow-up phone calls and emails are important for all of your customers — not just those you serve long distance. Never look at a customer complaint as a problem, but as an opportunity to do better for every customer that you work with in the future. The real question is: How can you do better for your customers? The only way you can answer that question is to ask your customers.

— Tom Peters, best-selling author

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, many customer service issues originate from making promises that cannot be kept. We tend to do things robotically and not put a lot of thought into what we are promising, especially when it requires the efforts of many people and many things going right to make good on a promise. I would rather have equipment repaired and back to the customer quicker than promised versus later than promised. Adding a day or two of flexibility — to protect you from a parts’ availability problem or from an employee being unavailable due to illness — helps your image as a dealer tremendously. I also would rather guess “high” on a repair amount and surprise the customer with a lower amount than guess “low” and charge a higher amount. Every now and then, I would rather see you discount your cost rather than charge a customer more than your estimate. You can even tell customers that you charged them less to score some brownie points. Again, how you want your customers to view you will be based on your attitude. The more positive view you project, the more likely your customers will come back and recommend you to others.

 I am a big believer in looking at history to see what our predecessors and contemporaries have done to be successful. I hope that these inspirational quotes help you see that fantastic customer service can propel a business to incredible heights, whether it be locally or internationally. I am not saying that all of these businesses are perfect and don’t come with their challenges too. In fact, many businesses get off track with regard to customer service, and if poor customer service lasts too long, it can cripple their future. If you see your business slipping off track, you can reference these quotes from great leaders to challenge you and your employees to do the right thing all the time. Make great customer service one of your top priorities!

1504_OPE_FS_Profit Center Series-Part III-Service2_author-Jeff Sheets-webJeff Sheets is the founder and owner of OPE Consulting Services. Whether a business is thriving or struggling to survive, Sheets’ rich experience in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors allows him to partner with business owners to customize unique strategies for their needs. For the past nine years, he has worked extensively with hundreds of outdoor power equipment dealers to create best practices in business structure, personnel management and financial profitability. For more information, he may be contacted at or (816) 260-5430. You can also follow him on Twitter @opeconsult, connect with him on LinkedIn, and visit his website at


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