Customer Service...Back to the Basics
by Stephen Lett
I continue to be amazed by the lack of customer service in this country. I am talking about genuine customer service with live, real-time people who resolve the customer’s problem unconditionally. Companies talk about providing customer service but they often fall short of the consumer’s expectations. The resolution is a compromise and not necessarily what the customer needed. Having the passion to serve the customer has to start at the top and filter down through the entire organization. It’s more than words. And, superior customer service does not start at the bottom of the organization. It’s ingrained in the culture of the company from the top down. What happened to Rule #1 – The customer is always right. And Rule #2 – See Rule #1. Over the years, I learned a great deal from my good friend and the real guru of customer service, Stanley Fenvessy (1918-1994). Stanley was a perfect gentleman and was recognized as the industry expert on customer service and fulfillment. Stanley’s book, Fenvessy on Fulfillment, was published in 1998 and it remains an excellent read today. Providing phenomenal customer service is one of the best ways grow a business and to compete against giants like Amazon. There is no substitute for personal, friendly customer service representatives who take care of the customer. The focus on customer services provides an opportunity to increase customer loyalty by maximizing customer satisfaction. This is one area that can set you apart from Amazon and other competitors. I have made note of recent personal experiences with customer service (or lack thereof). I am not really surprised by the lack of response I received. I’ve been conditioned to expect it. Are my problems and concerns not important? Don’t they care? I don’t understand this lack of concern because a little TLC goes a long way towards improving customer satisfaction and bonding with the customer … long-term. I have some positive experiences with customer service. It’s not all negative.
The experiences I remember the most, however, have been negative, which has limited my desire to do business with these companies again. The positive experiences have been the exception to the rule. What’s made the experience positive? It’s been when wait time on-hold was short, when a real person answered the call and when the representative stayed on the line long enough to resolve the problem. It was when the representative was polite, patient and truly interested in resolving my issue. Do you really know (or just think you know) how your company does business with the customer? How difficult is it to place an order, resolve a problem, return an item, etc.? Try ordering from your own company for a true customer experience. Call customer service to resolve an issue. Try returning merchandise. Go through the process of learning how your valued customers are treated. It costs considerably more money to acquire new customers than it does to keep existing customers. Therefore, it is critically important to retain those customers over a long period of time. The experience these customers have with your company will determine their lifetime value. Don’t just focus on acquiring new customers, but rather give priority to retaining those who are already buying from your company! It’s time to put words into actions. Sounds pretty basic, right? If I asked business owners and top management if their company provides excellent customer service, they would most likely say yes. Most of us are focused on sales and we don’t take the time to fully understand how we operate at the customer level. Don’t just think or assume you are providing good customer service; experience it. Live it. Make a commitment to being the best you can be when dealing with your customers.