Category Archives: Customer Service
Companies have a funny way of justifying that they are better than what their customers say they are.
If you think that’s off the mark, check out the online reviews of companies and see their responses back to the customers. Or any public statement when it comes to an incident such as a recall, injury, or other negative issue the company is involved in.
These answers vary but all have the same root political spin to them. At the core of their responses, the infamous line usually appears:
We pride ourselves in delivering the best experience to our customers.
And that is also coupled with another phrase touting the company’s (relative) success up until that point:
We have had thousands of satisfied customers…; We have succeeded in the indsutry by…:
And quite frankly, responses like these are lame, pathetic, and serve no good to that customer or any other customer.
All a customer simply wants is their needs and expectations met or exceeded.
Your success does nothing for the customer with a complaint.
I have seen many companies and individuals offer excuses for delivering on poor service. The following are some actual responses from these organizations and professionals:
- Away taking awards trips (and focusing on self rather than making sure customers are tended to)
- Busy in meetings all day (customer feels they are not the prioirty)
- We’ve made xxx amount of money in the last year (that is not helping the cusotmer today)
- We just landed a major account (and ignoring the smaller accounts)
- We’re crazy busy around here (showing you’re disorganized and can’t control your business)
- We’ve never had a problem before (totally irrelevant to the situation)
If the customer cannot feel connected to you, then you are not a success in their eyes. They are the only ones that truly matter and failure to take action to meet their expectations or to take accountability for dropping the ball will have a negative impact on your business. Sustained excuses and touting your ability to deliver when it’s really not there will have far-reaching damage on your credibility as a leader and an organization.
It’s said in the restaurant industry, “You’re only as good as your last meal served.” A better phrase would be “You’re only as good as the customer you just served”. Nothing you’ve done in the past, even the prior minute, matters.
The only thing that matters to the customer is what you do for them while they’re standing in front of you.
Earlier today I was talking with two very good friends of mine, one a manager in a manufacturing facility and the other a supervisor for a regional utility company. As is usual each week, our discussion turned to work.
They described the challenges their companies had in properly serving the end user – the customer. Some of the things we discovered about their companies centered on the rationales of their organizations to focus on relatively important items, and not the ultimately important item – the customer.
The dysfunction of many companies – even larger, global, and successful ones – invariably finds it root in the vision of the company being taken off of the customers they serve, and onto the by products to delivering great service.
So from their discussion and other observations, here are some red flags that will inform you if your company is not customer focused as they should:
- Many, if not all, decisions are based on budget
- Many individual leadership decisions are based on their own bonus
- Metrics on productivity take on more meaning than the customer experience
- Larger customers take priority and often trump smaller customers
- Well running systems are the default answer to actual problems (“But our systems check out”)
- Actions are made in light of public perception
- Real customer needs are excused away or pushed aside for more expedient (to the company) matters
- The push for customer acquisition eclipses the need for proper service to existing customers
- Systems and processes don’t mesh together, creating inefficiencies and poor service
- Policies and regulations are thrown out in defense of actions (in order to minimize risk) that don’t meet customer needs
If any of these or other actions result in a failure to truly have customers as the core company focus, it’s time to react. Getting all departments, systems, and efforts tuned-in to the customer experience will correct many of these issues, and their results may even be better than the pursuit of those results on their own merits.
Any company can drift over time and end up in the above situations. It’s not a fatal trap, but can lead to fatality if not corrected before the customers figure it out. By having a laser focus on excellent customer service, you’ll create a cultural vortex that will bend all efforts vision towards the customer and lead to even better success.
We’ve all been acquainted with the WII-FM attitudes from people in various organizations.
The WII-FM culture (What’s In It For Me?) stems from a lack of leadership to align it’s people with customer-centric and altruistic ways of assisting those they serve.
Some areas you may have seen this are:
- The stock clerk who never makes eye contact
- A doctor who talks more than the patient does
- The sales rep who’s concerned about their commission
- A mechanic at the service desk who ignores the customer in line
- The bank cashier who shuts down the window just as you approach (it’s break time after all)
These people may say they like to take care of their customers, but deep down their behavior and actions belie what they core value truly is.
Yet truly great people come from great organizations that foster a servant attitude in their entire company.
A servant attitude doesn’t mean the oft mis-aligned connotation of servant; it means having an attitude of “I’m here to service YOU”, the customer, instead. It’s a culture of putting oneself aside to take care of the needs of another throughout the workday. In fact, it’s what we’re paid to do.
It’s the effort to keep the store clean, know your customer, and talk about the products that makes Trader Joe’s stores a favorite among grocers. The staff are eager to find boxes for customers with heavy loads of loose cranberry juice bottles, and take time to comment on the items being purchased, all in a non-pushy, friendly and casual way.
Servant attitudes are Southwest Airline employees empowered to take care of travelers, always be cheerful and humorous, and do everything possible to make a flier comfortable for the ride. It’s that type of environment that has driven them to be the highest preferred airlines for many years.
One of the best examples of servant attitudes has to be Chick-Fil-A. When employees and managers consistently tells guests “It’s my pleasure”, it’s only a matter of time before that attitude becomes part of the employee’s DNA. There is not a visit goes by without the “Certainly” or “Thank You” that emanates from the staff in their pursuit of taking care of customers first and having a culture that backs it up.
Whatever your personal or corporate agenda is, nothing can differentiate you towards success and customer loyalty than aligning your people with a proven servant attitude. From top-to-bottom and side-to-side, an organization that consistently drives this type of culture will not have to worry about what their competitors are doing. And neither will your customers.