Service and Attitude Called Keys to Business Success


Tuesday, June 17, 1997


In speech after speech, Hal Becker says he finds it hard to believe that his job is to teach people about customer service.

"I tell my close friends I can't believe I get paid all this money to teach people things they already know that they're still going to do nothing about," Becker told about 225 salespeople yesterday. "Write down these two words: 'Be nice.' It all boils down to having the right attitude and remembering to be nice through the training.

Becker, a sales and customer service trainer in Lyndhurst, makes more than 170 presentations a year to organizations that include International Business Machines Corp., General Motors Corp., New York Life and Key Corp.

Yesterday, he spoke at a Sales & Marketing Executives of Cleveland luncheon at Windows on the River, fulfilling a desire he has had for 20 years - ever since he was 22 and already the No. 1 sales force of 11,000.

"I hope I don't offend anyone, but people who replace receptionists with machines don't get it," Becker said while relaying one of several frustrating scenarios that continually made the audience laugh. "Have technology work for you, not against you."

Becker, 42, characterized most companies' mission statements as "a bunch of crap," adding that the Ritz-Carlton's is among the exceptions. It simply says, "We are ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentlemen."

Becker said competition spurs changes for the better, noting that the retailers at Beachwood Place are expanding because Nordstrom, known for legendary customer service, soon will open there.

"Without competition, you can afford to be lazy and lousy," he said.

Becker's book - "Can I Have 5 Minutes of Your Time?" - is now in it's eighth printing. But he is not sitting on his laurels.

He told the group his new book is about his best and worst customer service experiences, and he names the businesses. The working title of the book, expected out in the fall, is called "Lip Service," and it will include 50 humorous stories of ridiculous customer service in America.

The book suggests what the business should have done to correct the situations. And it features his opinions on 10 companies that he believes best exemplify excellent customer service and his outlook on the future of customer service.

"If you really want to stand out, you've got to offer exceptional service," Becker said. "You can't talk about it. Just do it."

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