Actions speak louder

Remember that old saying? Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but probably a simplification of the original, the saying is, “What you do thunders so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Lost to history is the origin of the underlying principle, “Actions speak louder than words.” Modern communication scholarship confirms that when behavior and words contradict, we believe the nonverbal communication.

That’s why customer service communicates so clearly. When companies declare how important their customers are, and yet their policies and actions say otherwise, then guess what?

I want to tell you about two experiences that illustrate this, one “good” and one “bad.”

This will be the “good” one.

This evening we checked into a motel that is part of the Choice Hotels family, a chain we usually choose because of their loyalty program. We generally find good service (with some exceptions, usually when we choose a place that is part of one of their economy line–although I have to say even there we usually get friendly, professional service).

But we’ve been highly impressed this time! The lady who was on the desk was both extremely efficient and completely friendly and professional. You know the kind of fake friendliness that some places extend? Not here. The greeting seemed genuine, the lobby area was clean and attractive, and when we went to our room, my wife saw it first and said, “Wow!”

It’s nicely painted, spacious, clean, comfortable–a very relaxing place to spend a couple of days.

As always happens, I had to make a couple of trips out for things we forgot, and each time the lady at the front desk not only said something, but from her comments obviously remembered who I was.

It went beyond the front desk, though. Arthritis makes it hard for my wife to get around, and when I casually said something about that at breakfast, the lady taking care of the hot breakfast items (who already had enough to do) got a tray for me to use to carry breakfast up to our room.

Other people on the front desk had the same genuine friendliness. A repairman working on a door down the hall from our room showed the same genuine friendliness.

Here’s what I picked up on: all of them seemed to take pride in their work. They were happy to welcome guests because they knew they had done a good job. Somewhere, there is a franchise owner or at least a manager who knows what they’re doing.

Next, I’ll contrast not only the experience, but also the message getting sent.

P.S. Just came across another article that helps make this same point from the point of view of the company.

Have you had good customer service experiences? What message gets communicated that way?

Be sure to read part 2 also.

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