So much is written about poor customer service, it seems it’s epidemic. We routinely blare and blog about our bad experiences with family, and friends. Businesses lose sales and customer loyalty because of it. Their brand reputations are tarnished. And consumers remain blasé about most brands in general.

It seems stellar service, with notable exceptions, is a thing of the past. Or is it? A recent Fast Company blog post: “The Surprising Secret to Breakthrough Customer Service” shares what “could be."

In fact, a sluggish economy just might be the best time to establish and grow a company if the proper attention is paid to employee and customer engagement.

The gist: Paul Clinton, founder and CEO of Everything Wine in Vancouver, retired from Diageo, purchased two small wine shops and turned them into wine superstores. He is now in the process of opening up a third outlet. His stores are thriving. So are his employees. Better yet, so are his customers, who are the direct beneficiaries of his people-centric business model.

Check this out:

Every employee at Everything Wine, from the cashiers up, are wine experts.

All have been trained, so they can assist customers to pick out exactly the right wine for them by asking a few questions.

Every employee knows where every product is located in the store.

Every employee has been given a wine education.

Every employee’s schedule is worked out to suit their needs (school, family, full-time jobs, etc.).

The more knowledgeable employees become about wine, the more opportunities they have to advance within the company.

The customers enjoy the customary wine tastings; they can also take wine classes in the store.

“We are passionate about providing outstanding selection, service and value to our customers," Clinton says. “We want our employees to have a good time, and look forward to coming to work, and we want our customers to have a good time, and enjoy doing business with us.” Great philosophy. Shouldn’t it be core to every company?

So what are the “secret” to success take-aways?



Employee engagement, training and buy-in of the company brand=employee retention

Employee encouragement to bring family members into the company

Outstanding service to every customer by every employee

Management’s recognition and appreciation of employees’ individual talents and skills

Management’s clear appreciation for the customer

What’s new here? Nothing. These are the “secrets” long used by successful companies. Can every company follow this model? You bet. It only takes hard work and commitment.

Do you think a tough economy is a good time to launch a company if Clinton’s ideas are used as a business guide? Can you cite companies where you, as a customer, truly enjoy your shopping experience because of the environment and employees?

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni