Good Customer Service: A Case Study of Two Extremes
Customer Service: An Introduction
I've never been the type of customer to complain or scream or yell when I don't get my way. I am human, just like everyone, and sometimes things do annoy me more than they should. Conversely, I am all that much more appreciative of excellent customer care when I receive it. Being treated kindly is a hallmark of customer service, and excellent customer service is an essential trait of any successful business. Since businesses are run every day by employees who are equally as fallible as their customers, it stands to reason that excellent customer service may not always be possible.
One of the tricks to customer care is to treat the customer like you would want to be treated were your rolls reversed. This common courtesy often slips from the mind, however, when employees are overwhelmed with demands of their time and attention. Receiving truly exceptional customer service is growing less and less frequent, which is why it deserves to be recognized when it is present.
Are you more likely to remember excellent service or poor service?
A Lesson in Not-So-Great Customer Care
My wife and I went to the mall today to return an item that we purchased last week from our wireless company. We expected the process to be relatively simple, as we decided we did not need the accessory that we were sold, and it was sold to us at a relatively high price compared to the service it provided. We had received fantastic service at this location before, and mistakenly suspected that the same would hold true in this simple exchange. Unfortunately, we were mistaken. It is unclear whether or not this had to anything to do with the fact that we were returning an item or simply because the employees on duty were overworked and outnumbered.
There was no real "line" to speak of, with multiple employees rushing about the store to assist a wide array of potential customers. We stood where we believed the line to be, and new customers fell in behind us. When our turn arrived, we explained the situation to the clerk, who seemed completely unprepared (and untrained) for returning an item. She didn't know how to process a return, and didn't seem to even know if a return on the (unopened and presented WITH the receipt from last weekend) item in question. She had to ask a co-worker how to proceed. The other employee confirmed that we were within the deadline for the return, and that since we paid originally with a debit card, we were to be given cash back. She was unprepared to handle the transaction, approached it with no importance or hurry whatsoever, and finally decided that she was unable to complete the transaction herself. She went to several co-workers for assistance, and finally directed us into the care of another employee - plopping the receipt and the item unceremoniously down on the counter and then leaving to go do something else.
Unfortunately, the associate that she pawned us off to was already helping another customer - coincidentally one that was well behind us in line, and we had to wait again to be assisted. The transaction ahead of us took a considerable amount of time again, in addition to the original wait we had stood in line for initially. When our turn finally arrived, the new associate took his time with the exchange as well, had to ring the transaction up from start to finish, and was constantly interrupted by the first associate we dealt with who was asking him questions about completely unrelated transactions. By the time we had finally received our money back and were headed out of the store, the entire experience had taken far longer than a simple return should have.
Overall, the first associate who tried to assist us was untrained and unqualified to be assisting customers of any kind. This was made clear not only by the fact that she didn't know how to process a simple exchange or how the cash transaction process worked, but also by the fact that it seemed obvious that no matter WHAT she was trying to do, she needed to ask for help from her co-workers. Her inexperience dragged the entire team of employees down. She may have been new, but it was clear that new employees do not receive adequate training to be able to complete the essential functions of their job once they're put out on the floor. The entire ordeal wasn't bad enough to merit a call to corporate headquarters. It was annoying, but we weren't mistreated or ignored. A simple round of complex training should suffice to rectify the problem going forward, but it was far under par from what I would expect from such a popular, nation-wide chain, especially considering the fact that we had received such GOOD service from this exact location previously.
Polar Opposites - Customer Service Worth Noticing:
After our somewhat sub-par mall experience, my wife and I decided to pick up some lunch on our way home, and we went across the street to a local Mexican restaurant for take-out. Unfortunately, many businesses in our areas treat take-out customers with far less respect than their dine-in customers, but this business typically goes above and beyond to make their guests feel welcomed, regardless of whether they're dining in or taking out. This experience, however, took the cake and it will be nearly impossible for them to top on subsequent visits.
From the moment our car parked in the lot, an employee rushed to hold the door open for us, hand us a menu and ask if we'd visited previously (which we had). She then proceeded to take our order, repeating everything back to us to make sure that she got everything exactly the way we wanted it. She handed us our beverage and showed us to a table while we waited for our order to be prepared (fresh, and exactly to our specifications). We waited for a very short period of time, and she brought our order directly to us, repeating it back to us one last time to make sure it was perfect, took our half-empty soda for a refill once we confirmed everything was correct, and rushed to hold the door open for us on our way back. This is precisely the reason that I tend to tip servers who do take out, and it's the kind of service that I'm not accustomed to experiencing, but am very happy to receive when it presents itself. She did a stellar job, and I took down her name and intend to call the restaurant this evening to commend her to her manager on a job well done. The food was excellent, and it was an overall enjoyable experience which will ensure that we visit the establishment again and again in the future.
In Closing - A Note for Consumers:
It's easy to forget sometimes that the people on the other side of the counter are people and not solely embodiments of the company that they are being paid to represent. Screaming and yelling at them because you're having a bad day has become all too common - see http://notalwaysright.com/ for blistering examples of customers who have become just a tad too entitled to receive the care that they automatically think they deserve.
No matter how poorly you perceive yourself to be treated at the hands of a store employee, it helps to recognize that they are only people who are subjected to the same frustrations, emotions and downfalls that we are - and that screaming at them or taking your bad day out on them is going to do nothing to help the situation and can, in fact, make it much worse. If you feel that the service you received at the hand of any employee truly is astoundingly sub-par, many companies have customer service lines, comment and suggestion cards and managers on duty to handle complaints. In my experience, screaming and causing a scene does nothing to help your case, and can actually hinder the progress you're trying to make. Being nice, understanding and sympathetic gets you much, much closer to your end goal, and you're likely to be treated with far more deference and kindness when you treat others with respect - even if you think they've wronged you. One of the key aspects of understanding customer service is to exemplify the kind of customer that you would be likely to give good service to. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to see where they're coming from before you jump off of the handle at anyone. Doing this ensures that you're able to accomplish your ultimate goals with much more dignity and respect all around than if you carry on and make a fool out of yourself.