Customer LIP Service
By Ken Schmitt and Vicky Willenberg
When most people think of customer service, two things come to mind: Retail and Troubleshooting. We have certain expectations regarding the level of customer service we will receive when our groceries are being bagged, when we look through the racks at a department store or when we call someone – anyone – for help when our computer just won’t do what we want it to. It is assumed we will be greeted in a kind and courteous manner and there is an understanding that our questions will be answered and our needs will be met. And depending on where we are having this customer service– type of store, in person or on the phone- we expect the person assisting us to find someone who can solve our problem, if he is unable to do so. Obviously, we enter into these interactions with a lot of expectations.
However, it is incorrect to assume that customer service is only important in these specific scenarios. High quality customer service should be the standard regardless of industry. In addition, customer service should be more than a friendly greeting and a willingness to check for your size in the stockroom. The bar should be set much higher than that, especially in the professional world. Customer service should be synonymous with manners, courtesy and etiquette – not to mention follow through.
I recently had an experience where I was given what I would consider poor customer service- and it was not from the kind people answering the phones. In fact it was with a local company whom I have supported since their start-up days. Their product is something I believe in and have shared with many of my contacts and friends. In addition, I have communicated with the company’s CEO and shared with him my positive experience with his product and even pointed out that it is in use on every device in our home. Recently, the company began a marketing campaign encouraging clients to spread the word about their services and products. Because I support their business and respect his experience as a start up CEO, I reached out to him and invited him to serve as a speaker for one of the groups I participate in. Not only did I respond directly to the email that was sent to me unsolicited from what I am sure is their marketing department, I also reached out through LinkedIn to demonstrate my professionalism and genuine intent to engage his organization. And in response I received… nothing. Not a word, no response to my emails, no “thank you for being in the top 1% of our users”, no courtesy phone call saying “thank you for the invitation but my schedule won’t allow for me to speak at this time” – nothing!
As the President and Founder of a small business I understand how precious time can be. I recognize the barrage of emails and phone calls the CEOs of large companies receive. However, I think it’s safe to assume that each person within the company has received some training about customer service and how to interact with clients. Is it not reasonable to expect good customer service from every level of the organization – especially from the top? Is it acceptable to expect your customer base to give you free publicity and marketing, while simultaneously failing to provide that same level of service in return?
In this day of living a “mobile life” and working long hours thanks to smartphones and portable offices, it has become commonplace to offer up invitations to “grab coffee” or “schedule a time to connect” and even “combine forces.” However, those invitations are simply lip service without the follow through. At a bare minimum, how about good old fashioned common courtesy? In today’s age of social media, where videos of package delivery drivers throwing packages into the back of their trucks go viral in about 12 seconds, shouldn’t business leaders be even more inclined to deliver unsurpassed customer service? Common courtesy and follow through are at the heart of high quality, customer service and it is up to us as professionals to set the tone.