Customer Service Is Dying — and I’m Not Feeling So Good Myself!

March 26, 2012

Have you ever called a company and been greeted with the phrase “Hold, please”?

How do they know you can hold? They don’t even know who you are. Maybe you can’t hold; maybe you have 10 seconds of juice left on your cell phone and your hair is on fire! Then you finally get someone on the phone, only to be told, “I can’t actually help you; I’m just paid to apologize, and I’m really sorry about that.”

Being frustrated by a lack of customer service is nothing new. But in recent years, it certainly seems that companies have become more innovative when it comes to not helping you solve your problems. I recently asked a hotel employee to help me with my luggage. He told me to hold on and said he would have someone look into it. I thought, “Hey, you’re someone – why can’t you look into it?”

I realize that we are as busy as we have ever been and that many younger people were not brought up in the traditional culture of customer service. But none of these excuses will protect your business in today’s challenging economy, where customers are questioning value even with companies they have known for years.

Customer ServiceYou might have the best service, product or skills in your area, yet for some reason you still aren’t getting the results you know you deserve. It seems to make no sense! We’ve all been conditioned to believe that if you are the best, you are supposed to eventually win. Let’s address the reality of why your products, services or leadership styles – or those of your competitors – are selected.

Think of the top-selling hamburgers in the world. Are they the best hamburgers? No! And is that special sauce really special? It’s actually pretty gross! I’m not trying to criticize the fast food industry; it has combined two of the most desired things on the planet: Fast and Food. This convenient pairing results in top-selling burgers, but few people would argue that they’re the best. So why are they chosen? Because there is more to success than being the best.

The point is, success is more than being really good at what you do; it’s about being consistently chosen to do it. We like fast food because it meets a specific need. Some people under certain circumstances will trade quality for speed, and if you can put a little special sauce on it – even better!

Here’s an idea I’d like you to consider: There is no such thing as The Best! If the world agreed on what’s best, everybody would choose the best and nothing else would even be considered. Decision-making doesn’t work that way! People don’t necessarily choose what’s best; they choose what they are the most comfortable with, whether it’s the best or not. They don’t choose the best idea, the best strategy, or the best place to live. They choose the experience. That experience usually involves humans (unless your customers are dealing with robots, where being stiff, cold, and uncaring and speaking in a spooky sci-fi voice is pretty much expected).

Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and make service a real priority. Sure, plenty of companies claim to offer great customer care. But raising your service standards requires more than a promise; you need to set concrete goals and establish effective procedures to meet them. Whether you own the company, handle key accounts or just accidentally encounter your customers, you’ll reap huge benefits by applying the following customer service goals:

On the Phone

  • Be friendly! No one wants to send a check to people who seem to be bothered by their call.
  • Ask permission before putting a caller on hold. If a customer is greeted with “Hold, please,” what the customer really hears is “Hang on! Someone much more important than you just called in.”
  • Keep it professional. Smoking cigarettes, slurping a drink, and playing the drums on your desk can make callers feel like they are getting advice from a guy in a bar.
  • Make sure that callers don’t have to repeat themselves. Someone who has explained a problem three times to three different people hangs up angry, whether or not the problem is solved.

All the Time

  • Create a positive image to attract business. Remember that squirrels are just rats with good publicity.
  • Display compassion for people who are upset. People who don’t think you care won’t value your solution.
  • Be very clear when you explain a process. When customers don’t know what you’re talking about, they assume you don’t either.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do. When you don’t follow through, people don’t think you have forgotten. They think you don’t care.
  • Know when to bring in someone else. When it becomes clear that the customer thinks you are the problem, set your ego aside and send in a fresh face.
  • Establish a simple, easy-to-implement customer service plan. When something is really complicated, it’s hard to tell if it’s working.

Well, I think will survive – and I feel better now that I’ve written this article – but it’s important that we help nurse that ailing customer-service approach to a full recovery, ensuring a healthy prognosis for today’s businesses.

Customer service resources:  Customer service speaker

 


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