Fresh off of a vacation and what seems like a thousand or so “interactions” with various service providers and merchants, I continue to be perplexed as to why we as consumers so easily accept and by default, encourage lousy customer service in our daily lives. To my observation, receiving poor customer service is more the rule today than the exception.
I’ve wondered if it’s just me eliciting the questionable service, but I have a standing policy to greet every retail/front-desk/agent/clerk/teller with a smile and a nice greeting in an attempt to create a positive exchange. I can tell in a nanosecond of my approach whether the experience will be good or bad based on the response. Too many experiences with large and small organizations end up in the negative column.
While I am fascinated (morbidly so) at the number of people that make their living through customer contact that don’t understand how to contact customers, I am mortified at the sloppy leadership practices and sloppy leaders that allow poor customer service to rule the day. My armchair diagnosis is that these leaders suffer from an unhealthy mix of arrogance, apathy and ignorance. They either don’t give a damn or don’t know. Both are inexcusable.
Aside from the obvious relationship destroying, bad-will creating outcome of delivering poor customer service at the point-of-sale, consider the bigger picture. An organization spends an incredible amount of time and money in creating products and services, enticing you to try their offering and just when they finally have you where they want you, they shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by creating a miserable customer experience. For example, I receive better service from neighborhood kids selling lemonade than most people receive from almost anyone in the U.S. airline industry.
For decades, U.S. manufacturers ignored the rising quality standards in global competitors, and seemed genuinely perplexed when consumers voted with their wallets in favor of the best product, regardless of origin. It took a few more decades for the firms that survived to recognize that designing quality into the product and processes wasn’t a new management fad, but rather it was the price of admission. I see the same thing happening with customer service.
9 Suggestions on Customer Service for Executives, Leaders and Managers Everywhere:
- Come to grips with the value creating, brand strengthening, loyalty building, buzz generating, lifetime value maximizing power of great customer service.
- Alternatively, come to grips with the cost-wasting, bad-will generating, brand destroying, competitor enriching power of lousy customer service.
- Figure out what “great customer service” means to your customers and turn your organization upside down in pursuit of delivering it.
- Design customer service into your offerings and processes just as you now design quality into your offerings. Customer Service is a part of your “augmented” product. Fixing customer service after the fact is a lot more costly in many ways than building it into your organization and offerings up front.
- Beware the lure of cost-cutting measures that have the potential to adversely affect customers. Evaluate the customer impact carefully before proceeding.
- Delegate power to satisfy customers down to the lowest possible point in the organization.
- Reinforce a culture of customer service excellence by measuring, monitoring and rewarding for performance as well as for identifying and implementing improvements.
- Seek specific, direct feedback from customers on their experiences. Surveys are OK, observing, talking and asking questions are all much more tangible.
- Get out from behind your desk and spend time where your firm comes in contact with customers. Become a customer and evaluate your own experience.
Suggestions for Consumers Everywhere
- Vote with your wallet every single day.
- Tell everyone about your experiences…good and bad.
- If you are in a hospitality environment, tip lavishly for great service, and remember to tell the server and the server’s manager about your experience. (Do the same, minus the tip part for lousy service.)
The Bottom-Line for Now:
There is no excuse for lousy customer service ever. Poor customer service is either a philosophical failure on the part of leadership or a failure to execute. Regardless of the cause, the impact is the same. Poor customer service destroys your value proposition in the marketplace and degrades the efforts of everyone in the organization. Is great customer service more than just a slogan in your organization?