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The King of Customer Service preaches his gospel in St. Helens

by: Rick Swart, Motivational speaker Rick Olson talks about world-class customer service with (from left) Holly Nachbar, Shayla Shinn and Barbara Harris of St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union. Olson trained about 60 members of local businesses and government agencies in the art of customer service during the daylong workshop last Wednesday.

Corporate trainer and motivational speaker Rick Olson has some simple suggestions for people who want to succeed in business:

• Assume people like you

• Live by the Golden Rule

• Choose to bring a positive attitude to work

• Hire solution-oriented employees

• Tap the creative talent of the people around you

• Clean the bathroom

• Read a book, companywide, at least once a year

These are a few of the nuggets that Olson shared with 60 members of local businesses and government agencies last week during a workshop sponsored by the South County Chamber of Commerce, Columbia River PUD, South County Spotlight, and Best Western Oak Meadows Inn.

People who practice these principles - consistently and conscientiously - will be on their way to forming world-class customer-service companies, according to Olson, one of the country's leading authorities on the subject.

Olson traveled to St. Helens from his home in Dallas, Wis., to lead the daylong workshop presented by the chamber, which is going through a metamorphosis in the wake of financial difficulties that came to a head last summer.

'This is a perfect example of what we're trying to do as a chamber,' said Bart Miller, a member of the chamber's board of directors, who was instrumental in organizing the event. 'One of our objectives is to provide training opportunities that will provide businesses, organizations and government agencies the necessary tools to develop their own management, employees and staff.

Olson preached the gospel of customer service with a mixture of evangelism and comic relief.

'Your attitude has a huge impact on your co-workers,' Olson said after performing a one-man skit in which he entered the room with a scowl on his face, and then re-entered with a big smile.

'We all have bad things that happen to us, and things that are out of our control, but attitude isn't one of them,' he said, reciting an old axiom, 'Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.'

The same goes for enthusiasm - it's a choice.

'We can create enthusiasm for anything we want to create enthusiasm for,' he said. 'Create enthusiasm for your work; don't sleepwalk through your day.'

He talked about the importance of hiring solution-oriented employees.

'Problem-oriented employees think supervisors were created for the purposes of dumping problems on,' he said, encouraging managers in the room not to put up with that attitude.

'We need solution-oriented employees,' he said, adding that when employees come to them with problems the manager's response should be, 'What would you like to do about it?'

Olson challenged St. Helens to become 'a world class customer-service town.'

'You don't have to be the biggest,' he said. 'It's all about quality.'