Customer Service is a misunderstood phenomena for business owners and employees. Interestingly enough, these business owners and employees are all customers at some point of the day or month yet their businesses and actions taken simply should reflect their customers get what they need in a timely manner.
Service is not just an act but it is making people feel appreciated. Let’s think about our homes and our children- we all learn at a very early age that we should say please, thank you and your welcome – however, we do not consistently practice this behavior. Our children attend school and the teachers may not reinforce the values taught at home and so you take your kid to school and pass a couple children on the way to the classroom and say “Good Morning” – looking them straight in the eyes and they don’t even acknowledge or respond. I have actually taken the step further by deliberately saying “Good Morning” to the parents of those children that do not acknowledge or respond and guess what? The response from those parents are exactly the same because “Children live what they learn”.
Service starts from the home – we must teach our children core values and behaviors and ensure that they continue to demonstrate this until it becomes natural. How many times have you went to the bank or the supermarket and held the door for someone and they never even said thank you or showed some level of gratitude that you assisted them?
Customer service is the only strategy that will differentiate you from your competition because marketing campaigns, new buildings, branded uniforms and state of the art equipment unfortunately cannot solve a customer’s issue or concern. Most people contact a business for 2 reasons – to make complaint or to make a request – it’s that simple! People is the differentiating factor in customer service – therefore, you must recruit the right people with the right attitude. Attitude is an asset that cannot be taught as this comes from within the individual – their mindset, their thought process, how they view life and others around them.
Once you have hired the right people with the right mindset – your number one responsibility is to develop and grow them in a way that will be congruent with the organizations’s values and standards. Common sense is not common and there are many things that we take for granted with our employees such as grooming, use of technology (Microsoft Office), how to communicate professionally with external customers just to name a few.
A Diploma, Degree, Masters or Phd does not guarantee that people will know what you want them to know. Let’s say for example you advertise a position in the newspaper and you have over 500 applicants, 4 intensive weeks of interviewing and finally you hire 30 people. The company now places these people in a work environment and let’s them work along with a team member (this they define as on-the-job training) – however, the team member has been completing the process incorrect from day 1 – in this company there is no appraisal or measurement done annually and so the “newbie” comes along and learns the incorrect way too. Customers have negative experiences because the employees in this company appear that they don’t know what they are doing simply because they can’t solve the customer’s problems.
Let’s take another example – you have sent off some cheques to your local bank to deposit to suppliers accounts in July. The bank representative takes the cheques and promised to deposit to the accounts due to the fact the bank is packed up. Two weeks have passed and the suppliers call to advise they haven’t received payment. You contact the bank only to find out the bank representative has gone on vacation and she will not return for another three weeks. The bank contacts her and she tells them where to find the cheques – this continues for an additional 5 days. The cheques cannot be located and the bank requests that a letter be written to place a stop order on the cheques – the bank manager at no point in any of this conversation apologizes for the blatant error made on the part of the bank. The customer has to ask if the stop order charges will be waived because the bank manager has applied absolutely no service recovery.
Customer service is simply acting to satisfy customer’s needs – all the company needed and wanted was for the cheques to be deposited to the requisite supplier accounts. That was not completed – because the bank probably does not measure their employee’s performance – it was never known formally that this bank representative had outstanding work before she went on vacation and if she did – there should have been a system in place where even in her absence the tasks are still completed.
If you take the time and investigate customer service issues and ask your customers what makes them irate – it usually is because the company has not satisfied their needs. Poor customer service results in pain for most companies – bad word of mouths advertising, low employee morale, lost and irate customers, lost revenue, high staff turn over and the ultimate result if not addressed immediately is business closure.
Customer service is applicable in any business – a business with 1 person or a business with 10,000 people. All leaders must recognize their main role is to grow and develop people and as a result your workforce will be so robust- they will be able to make decisions and solve customer issues and concerns very quickly. Your business can be a bank, supermarket, events management, automotive sales, airline, legal services, medical services, education (teacher or lecturer), utility, telecommunications, retail clothing, make up – it really does not matter if your service or product is tangible or intangible – you must make your customers (internal and external) know that you care and they will show you that they care. The result will be simply pleasure or pain!