sealPurdue News

January 1998

In customer service, what you don't say may tell it all

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When a customer walks in the door of a hotel or restaurant, how employees act may send a louder message than their words.

"As far as a customer is concerned, front-line employees in the service industry are the business," says Joseph La Lopa, assistant professor in the Purdue University Department of Restaurant, Hotel, Institutional and Tourism Management. "Businesses put a heavy burden on these people, and managers should realize the extent to which their employees create the image of their business."

La Lopa has developed a video and workbook for training front line employees in tourist and hospitality businesses. They list nonverbal expressions that may turn on or turn off customers. Among the no-nos:

He says positive signs to customers include smiling, friendly eye contact and nodding. "Use these gestures in abundance when meeting and greeting customers," La Lopa says.

"How to Please People," the video and workbook, is designed to provide independent businesses an inexpensive way to train their employees. The cost is $99.

"Many small business owners will say that they can't afford to train their people. My reply is that good training more than pays for itself. What they can't afford is to not train their employees," La Lopa says.

Other topics covered include key points in meeting and greeting customers; telephone etiquette; the art of active listening; how to handle customer complaints; and elements of quality service.

The two-hour video and workbook may be purchased by contacting La Lopa at (765) 494-6218; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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