What has happened to customer service? Has the ability to be polite, considerate and interested in our client been absorbed by technology or busyness? Have we lost the ability to deliver on promises? Great client service now seems to be the exception to the rule rather than something that is consistently experienced.
One of my biggest bugbears is poor service. When people who are meant to be ‘serving you’ treat you like you are an inconvenience. Or they don’t do what they say they are going to do; they have been ‘too busy’ to return my call or send me the information promised.
There are countless businesses that spruik the fact their client service standards set them apart from the rest on beautifully designed web pages. ‘We deliver on our promises’. ‘We partner with you’. ‘We go the extra mile for our clients’. But the real client experience is the complete opposite to what is promoted.
This is such a simple thing to get right, unless of course you have the wrong people in these roles. But to deliver a strong standard of client service isn’t difficult. This problem isn’t limited to one generation either. It’s across all the generations and to be honest the older generations are, in my experience, some of the worst offenders. This whole issue is quite perplexing to me!
Consistently great customer service has always been and will always be one of the critical competitive advantages for any business. But it needs to translate from empty words and promises on a website to real and authentic actions. Unless you follow through you are limiting your opportunity to create advocates for your business or for you. People seek out recommendations for service providers now rather than relying on advertising. Word of Mouth is powerful and free advertising and yet we’re not paying attention to this sales strategy enough.
Here are four of the worst client service examples to be avoided at all costs. Warning, these are common, across all industries. Don’t assume this isn’t happening in your business.
- Not thanking a client for waiting Let’s use the post office as an example here. You simply need to collect a parcel. You have waited (wasted) 20 minutes standing in the queue and the customer service representative calls ‘next’ and simply looks at you. No greeting, no thanks for waiting, just a ‘what do you want’ attitude. This makes my blood boil. I don’t expect an apology for my wait (waste) time, but a simple thank you does wonders coupled with an attitude of “I want to help you’ rather than you’re a pain in the butt’ attitude.
- Shirking responsibility when there is a problem. This was drummed into me during my banking days. It doesn’t matter if the issue isn’t your fault – find the solution. That’s all I care about. I don’t care if another department has let you down, I don’t care if something has been lost in transit. And I certainly don’t care if you’ve been soooooo busy. Stop blaming, take responsibility for what has happened and solve my issue. David Porter so aptly said ‘Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.’
- Not delivering on promises Call centers listen up. You guys are the worst at this in my experience, with larger organizations right on your tail. If you say you’re going to do something – do it. Call me back in the timeframe you said you would, even if you can’t fulfill my request. Call me and let me know where things are at. Send me the information I requested in the timeframe you promised. If there’s a hold up let me know about it. If you can’t fulfill your promise, let me know immediately so I can go elsewhere. Don’t leave it to me to play a guessing game of will she/he do what I have requested.
- Just being plain rude There is absolutely no excuse for this and this one can come down to your attitude and how self-aware you are. But here’s the thing, it’s not my fault you missed the train, arrived late once again to be challenged by your boss. It’s not my fault you forgot your lunch or had a fight with your partner that morning. That’s for you to deal with. As your client, I expect you to treat me with respect and common decency, regardless of how your day started or how you are feeling.
Understanding why customer service is so important is the first step in delivering exceptional service. Providing a great experience that is memorable should be the priority for any business when acquiring a new client. Then backing that up with strong client support is important for client retention. This is how you create advocates.
I challenge you to listen to what is going on around you and be very aware of how you are operating in this space. If you have a problem with it you need to jump on it immediately. Whether it’s a culture issue or a people/person issue or an engagement issue you need to sort it out.
As Mahatma Gandhi once shared “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”