Is Your “Customer Service” REALLY Customer Service?
Do the following scenarios seem familiar to you?
- A customer who is exasperated from getting the runaround from a company for what should be a simple return or claim process.
- A support staff employee who does not help others who serve customers, give short answers, and claims “it’s not my job”.
- Experiencing challenges in getting timely service due to a company’s procedures or lack of service urgency?
- Employees being frustrating in not having the resources needed to take care of customers because of various obstacles in their way?
- Or – my favorite – limited cashier lines at stores but plenty of “self-checkout” terminals, some of which are down, or many times cannot process your checkout properly without waiting for a key-holder to clear the transaction.
Every company claims some part of their operation as customer service, but the fact is, many of them really don’t have pure customer service at all.
So when is customer service really NOT “customer service”? Here is a list of barriers that do a disservice to customers:
- Rigid systems
- Blinders to other options. No problem solving.
- No assistance to meet customer needs
- “Follow procedures, stick to policies”
- Defensive when asked about what can be done for a specific customer need
- Systems designed to be easier on staff, and not for customers and clients
- Culture that leads staff to protect their workflow and convenience, and ignore needs of other staff or customers
- Failing to see the customer as the reason for business and their job
- Over-reliance on technology or systems
- Unwillingness to solve a problem, “its more effort and work”
Many times companies fall into the trap of procedures that ultimately take away from the customer experience. It usually underscores a deeper problem: failure to keep the customer number one.
Now compare the above examples to the following real-life efforts of those who have delivered true customer service:
- A colleague of mine stayed at a hotel in which the room temp was extremely hot. The maintenance person who was called (after 8pm!!) said the unit froze over and needed to be replaced, then promptly started to replace it and had it working again in 20 minutes.
- The cashier at a busy (an usually under-staffed) big box store who left her line to run an item forgotten by a paying customer before they left the store.
- An astute manager scanning faces of their customers in a restaurant and going to each of those customers to address any issues before there is a complaint.
- A salesperson who makes themselves available off-hours to answer client needs and keeps the flow or orders moving.
- A healthcare facility that does lab work on Fridays and emails the test results over the weekend, and also provides a wealth of information to the patient to help them stay informed on the upcoming procedure and post-surgical care steps.
In each of these five examples, it would have been very easy to forgo the customer experience. The hotel maintenance person could have said it was too late and they would fix the A/C tomorrow. The cashier could have stayed in her line and wished the customer came back for the item. The busy restaurant manager could have hid in the kitchen and hope for no customer concerns. The salesperseon could have ignored their customers’ questions and let them be anxious overnight or the weekend. And the hospital could have just waited to give the basic information to the patient on their next scheduled appointment.
Customer service has two key symbiotic components: customer and service. True service means serving others, which is the customer. Customers are always the reason any company exists. Once the focus drifts away from customer service onto margins, shareholders, technology, policies, or big data, then customer service is sacrificed. Once the focus is abandoned, then the downward spiral of lost business, and loss of consumer confidence in your brand, begins.
Does your organization REALLY have customer service in it’s true and purest sense? Does EVERYTHING in your company have a positive direct impact on accommodating your clientele? Do your procedures, phone trees, people, and profit margin go toward the direct benefit of the customer, or elsewhere?
Make customer service happen in your organization. Streamline everything for an awesome customer experience and your brand will be stronger than your competition!