Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is 'Good' Service a Myth or an Opportunity?

The concept of experiencing good customer service seems to have taken a nose dive in the last decade. Where people who have a good customer experience, often seem to respond with ‘surprise’, more than anything else, as good service seems to be something most people simply don’t expect to encounter anymore.
When you ask people about customer service these days they normally reply with horrendous stories and cynicism. This is especially true on social media sites where anyone expecting good service these days seems to be labelled na├»ve and out of touch with reality. 
Speaking to a colleague recently about customer service, he relayed an experience with a company in New York that he phoned for a quote – in fact their advertisement encouraged potential customers to phone for a quote. When he was given the price, he replied that he was looking for something a little cheaper than the price quoted; and the reply from the ‘shop’ was; “then why the f..k are you phoning me then?”
Unsurprisingly they didn’t get his business – and one has to wonder how the company survives. We also don’t know if the person who took the call was the owner or not; but that just opens up more questions and concerns.  If it was the owner then one assumes he makes so much money he doesn’t care who he upsets and how many clients he loses; or how many people hear about his approach to customer service. If it was an employee then the owner isn’t blameless, as they have put them in this front-office role and one wonders if this approach is part of the employees training.
The good news is that for those looking for a unique competitive advantage that will make them stand out from the crowd of competitive offerings – then good customer service is one influencing factor that is just ‘out there’ waiting to be utilized once again. Once you get beyond the rhetoric, everyone responds well to good customer service – whether they are cynical about the concept of service or not. It isn’t just a basic competitive advantage, but it is a key influencing factor that will encourage the customer to repeat purchase and even to become loyal over time, assuming the price and quality also meet their expectations. 
Though we must remember that customer service includes the whole package – it’s not just the ‘buying’ experience, but the ‘functionality’ of the purchase and the fact that it also meets and/or exceeds the customer’s expectations.
In most cases good customer service doesn’t cost an organisation anything -  as it’s mostly about attitude and values, and it’s something the organisation either instills in its work ethic or it doesn’t, ensuring it recruits the right people and then trains and develops them in the right way.
So if it’s so easy, why don’t organisations, from the small family business to the large corporate, spend the time developing a customer centric culture? And the answer seems to be that they simply have a lazy approach to business and a feeling of entitlement around their position or status. It’s a sad reflection on many leaders who represent and instil the culture of their organisations, that they don’t see service as a key function of their business offering. Appearing to consider customers as ‘things’ or ‘throughput’ rather than individuals – where these short-sighted organisations are simply interested in the ‘purchase’ – where they seem to believe that the “are you going to buy, if not don’t waste our time” approach will somehow miraculously lead to sustainable business growth.
In the next few years there will be a definite change in the business environment across all business sectors – where some ‘smart’ organisations, looking to increase their market share and wanting to influence their sustainable growth, will see that customer service is a simple win-win scenario for them to embrace and implement. They will appreciate that if leaders and employees can get over their own feeling of importance and concentrate on giving the customer a ‘great experience’ then the organisation will earn a sustainable benefit and a special place in their market segment.

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