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customer service is not complicated but it does require some effort

customer service is not complicated but it does require some effort

Customer service seems to be elusive at some businesses, and I hear fellow customers maligning the lack of service often. It made me think, maybe we have lost sight of what the concept means, so I looked up the definition…

CUSTOMER SERVICE: the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase

a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation

Okay, I thought, it’s not me. I was right in thinking that customer service was about the customer. But then why do I sometimes feel like I am inconveniencing employees at some businesses?

My husband and I had an interesting experience recently. He forgot his credit card at our local grocery store. He knew shortly after getting home and was going out again later that day so we thought, “we’ll just stop by and pick it up”. He was confident the cashier would have set it aside. Unfortunately there was more to it than that.

We went to the Customer Service desk. That offers you confidence, doesn’t it? As a customer you think, “this is where they specialize in helping me.” Well, the woman at the desk looked in the book denoting any lost items and my husband’s card was not listed. She said, “we don’t have it”. My husband smiled and replied, “I’m sure it’s tucked away someplace. This was the only place I used it and I am quite sure I left it. I have the receipt; here is the time and the name of the cashier that helped me.”

The woman was at a loss; she couldn’t seem to think of anything else to do. So, my husband tried to help…”maybe you could check in the office, or if there is a place you keep items?” he said. She looked in the drawer but couldn’t find it. “Well, here’s my card – can you ask the managers to mention it at the morning meeting? I’ve seen the cashiers gathering when I’ve been here early before”, he said, smiling. (My husband is a private chef and does a lot of grocery shopping; he knows more of the produce codes than most of the cashiers.) The Customer Service woman looked at him with rather a blank expression and said, ” can I keep this card?” He took a deep breath, and said “yes please, here take a few more if you like. Just ask around, maybe leave a note for the cashier to see if she remembers me? I’ll come back in the morning to check again.” She replied ” I’ll see what I can do”. We left with me shaking my head.

The next day a similar experience occurred. My husband returned to the infamous Customer Service desk and dealt with another employee. She claimed not to know anything about the previous day’s inquiry. So, once more my husband recounts the story. She looks in the book again – no result, of course. My husband shows the receipt and asks if they can check the cash station number as noted on his receipt; perhaps the card is in the drawer there still? The employee goes and checks, but no luck.

My husband feels like he should be on the other side of the counter by this point, but he calmly says “Is the cashier here? We could ask her.” She is working, and what do they find? She did put it in the drawer, wrapped in a copy of the receipt. She forgot to write it in the book, as she was busy. My husband thanked her for her diligence and went back to the Customer Service desk with the employee from that specialized department. Her closing comment? Not “I’m sorry for the inconvenience”, or “Thanks for your patience” but instead a lovely attempt to throw her colleague under the proverbial bus with ” She SHOULD HAVE put it down in the book.” My husband and I left feeling like we had just visited a totally broken business.

In closing, perhaps I can wrap up with a few tips in hopes that any managers reading this will work with their Customer Service teams to ensure they are successful in their mission. I’ll reiterate it for starters…

a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation

  • remember to smile – it shows you are happy to deal with the customer, and (hopefully) happy to be working there. If this is hard for you to do, you’re in the wrong business!
  • focus on the customer – listen to their needs, and check to be sure you are understanding what they want. Think about what you would want to hear if you were on the other side of the counter… things like “that person was wrong”, “we’re short-staffed” or “it’s not my department” are not it.
  • be the best you can be – it’s not just for Marines. If you don’t know something, ask! Learn more so you can share your expertise and maybe even exceed customer expectations 🙂
  • work as a team with your colleagues – support their actions to show the customer you are all working to enhance their experience and any errors are unintentional (managers can coach employees on better ways to solve difficult situations away from customers, in private)
  • take positive actions to improve situations – go the extra mile to thank a customer on a good day, and when there is a problem make sure you do something, even if it’s asking a colleague to help resolve things.
what goes around comes around - offer these traits in your service, and you will have customers who are raving fans

what goes around comes around – offer these traits in your service, and you will have customers who are raving fans

Set yourself up for success in customer service and you will have happy customers. Guess what? You’ll also have happy employees, and happy managers. Go figure. It all starts with a smile and just a bit of passion.

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