Krawczak: Appreciation leads to positive results

Each month the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes a member that has provided exceptional customer service. Not just good customer service, but customer service that goes beyond what you might expect to experience at any given business.

These stories come from actual customers who take the time to contact the Chamber to tell us how pleased they were with their experience. After we receive a story, we share details with the rest of our members and social media followers. We take a picture of the business and their team, and share it on Facebook and Twitter, in our newsletter, and in the lobby of our building. These recognized businesses are also then entered into the running for our Customer Service of the Year recognition that we award each year at our annual dinner. Providing exceptional customer service is worthy of great praise and recognition.

It is unfortunate that we rarely have months where we have more than one story to choose from to highlight and share. Sometimes we even have to ask our ambassadors, staff, or others to share a story because no stories had been shared with us for that month. That isn’t all that odd. Until you consider what I will share next. If we wanted to instead run a program recognizing bad customer service stories, we would have no shortage of stories to choose from. We receive complaints regularly about bad experiences people had at various organizations.

I do not for one minute believe the reason for this is because there are that many more negative customer service experiences than positive ones. Instead, I believe this is the case because people are more willing to share bad customer service stories than good ones.

Generally speaking, people prefer to complain about bad service than praise good service. I won’t pretend I know why this is true, but I do think we should consider changing this trend. Constructive criticism and suggestions are helpful but hearing the good is equally as helpful. Who doesn’t like positive confirmation? Who wouldn’t benefit from hearing a compliment about something they are doing right?

I find myself falling into this trap sometimes. It is hard not to complain when you leave a business and feel very frustrated. But why, when someone gives us good customer service, don’t we leave with the same burning desire to share? I can think about plenty of positive experiences I’ve had that I did not share with anyone. And that bothers me.

I might share good stories if my experience is well above and beyond what my expectations were for that interaction. Like the time we were leaving a restaurant after a nice lunch and were stopped by the staff because they were just putting a new item on the buffet and didn’t want us to miss the chance to try it. I shared this story with others because it made me feel like a special customer and it was above and beyond my expectations for that interaction. But I’m ashamed to admit that it often takes an extreme case of good customer service for me to tell others about my positive experience, even though there are plenty of places that regularly provide me with good service.

So what am I going to do? I am going to try harder to show my appreciation for good customer service.

A few years ago I started taking time each week to email, compose a hand written note, or make a phone call to tell someone how much I appreciate them and the job they are doing. I also try harder now to thank someone on the spot for the good work they do. I think showing appreciation inspires more positive action.

We constantly encourage businesses and the community to provide positive experiences for customers and visitors. But what does “good” look like? What better way to ask for it than to show appreciation for it when it happens? And what better way to get more of it than to recognize those who do it well? Will you join me in making an effort to say thank you to those who are doing a good job? Please join me in showing appreciation for those who meet or exceed our expectations.

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.