Admittedly, I may be a little over sensitive to poor customer service, but there seems to be an epidemic of poor service at the most basic level in many businesses. I find this problem across all businesses, from retail to commercial ventures and I have spent many hours wondering why so many people do not understand the negative effect they create by not providing a basic level of service to their customers. The following is my opinion on this topic and I welcome your input and opinions.
Firstly, I think there is a big lack of understanding what “Customer Service” actually is. It seems most people feel customer service is how we greet, talk to, communicate with and generally get along with your customers. This seems to limit itself to the most basic business functions, like phone messages, sales calls, taking orders and the limited contact we have with customers when things are without conflict or troubles.
A good example is insurance company XYZ ( I will leave them unnamed in this story .. but this is a true story). If you look at their feedback KPI on their website they seem very proud to show off the 87% happy client report that comes from happy customers when they found a “pleasant phone voice” or “quick contract being processed”. Surely this is the wrong area to place a measurement of this because this behavior from XYZ staff is really a bare minimum requirement for their job and should not be considered “customer service” but should be considered part of the “standard way business is conducted”. If they did not provide their service in this manner they would likely be fired and furthermore, this is not about delivering their product .. it about taking the customers money. The real product only get delivered when a claim get filed for an accident or something. So is it really exceptional performance or just doing their job?
So where should we place measurements for customer service KPI’s? I would suggest you should measure how staff and company handled a difficult situation, error or defect. The true test of customer service only comes when a problem occurs and staff are put to the test. I will refer again to XYZ, where, if we look at their Facebook page there is almost 100% very negative feedback from customers that filed a claim. With only 750 likes and high dissatisfaction, I would suggest XYZ has a huge problem with only 87% happy with the standard service and almost 100% unhappy with the product! They are measuring the wrong area and they are giving themselves a false sense of high achievement. I can report from firsthand experience, they do need to improve their customer service … But that is another story!
Of course, customer service is also found in the small day-by-day things. Take for example my local cafe I frequent (in fact I almost own the place now with my investment in their coffee) that has recently been bought out by a new owner. I have always noticed what the staff did right .. the fact they know my name, and they were genuinely friendly with me and did enjoy their job. This not only made me feel good and go out of my way to buy my coffee from them .. it also made me think their coffee actually tasted better than all others. We did a blind taste test and found I could not tell the difference if I didn’t know it was theirs. Now .. with a new owner and staff, I don’t get the same feel from them and the little stuff I notice now is the things that make me feel bad. And it is small stuff. Like the fact that when my takeaway coffee is ready, they just put it on the counter and do not make eye contact with me and say thank-you when I take it. These little things have encouraged me to go to the cafe 4 doors up from them for the first time in years.
Am I fickle for feeling this way ? yes. But I am a customer and that is how I am .. as are all of your customers!
Customer service is a widely misunderstood animal and, in my opinion, is one of the main drivers in company failures and struggles. Customers have 3 main needs… Right product(service fits in here), right time, right price. Meet these needs and you have met the basic needs of business, however, people are people and when you make someone “feel” bad, they will report poor customer service.
“People forget what you say and do, but they never forget how you make them feel”
When a mistake occurs, most people will accept it has happened but they will also require an appropriate response. It is always how a company handles the situation that makes the difference.
Bruce Poling of The Joinery Coach is an expert in helping joinery businesses improve their customer service and measure the benefits of this. These benefits are normally found to be richer relationships you will build with the people you spend time with daily (customers and co-workers) and a happier life in general.