We all frequent a lot of businesses; most have so-so customer service at best. (But not if you hear their advertising! Customer service is always outstanding!) We’ve become used to clerks who seem put out if they actually have to help us, and we even find ourselves feeling bad if we have to ask for their help! Customer service has become a customer guilt trip. Sure, we all know there are tough customers – but the majority are nice folks who just want the products or services each company is supposed to provide.
Since I conduct customer service training, I know why customer service is often so bad:
1.) Company leadership stinks. They haven’t defined what they expect OR they enforce the rules with some front line people, but not with others OR they have no idea how to motivate and inspire their people OR they assume their people know how to give good customer service. This list could go on and on. I ALWAYS attribute poor service to poor leadership. Period. It starts at the top.
2.) Nobody in the company has truly defined what good customer service is. How can front line people deliver it if no one knows what it is? One of the biggest things missing in customer service today is friendliness. It’s also one of THE most important things. Do you train your people how to be friendly? If not, don’t be surprised if they aren’t. How do you define “friendliness”? When FireStar gives customer service training, we spend a great deal of time on just that – tone of voice, body language, facial expressions – we talk about how to be friendly!! You would be surprised how many people don’t know how to be consistently friendly to customers. And when we give leadership training we talk about how to define expectations for employees.
3.) Front line people are treated poorly by the company. Imagine that! The most important people in the company – the ones who deal with the customers on a daily basis – are treated the worst! You know it’s true. They often get paid the least, have the least amount of freedom and get hammered if they mess up one phone message. They get it from all sides, all day. And the ones who are good – who show up on time and handle things well – are usually ignored. Leaders spend all their time trying to fix the problem employees and these superstars of dependability get nothing. If you treat your front line people like dirt, how do you think they’re going to treat the customers? You got it – like dirt!
4.) Companies want short term profits and forget the long term. They focus on speed of processing and don’t give their people time to be friendly. They set up crazy policies and procedures and don’t do a good job of educating customers. This is guaranteed to result in problems that front line people will have to straighten out. It’s one thing to sit in the corporate office and invent policy – it’s another to battle the 100 irate customers in the lobby. A short term view usually makes companies harder to do business with (ex. it’s cheaper to hire people in India – so what if they can’t understand our customers? We’re saving millions!). Making it hard to do business with you is not providing good customer service. It may make money in the short term, but in the long run, customers will go elsewhere.
These are just the tip of the bad customer service iceberg. It’s just a matter of time before this iceberg sinks some companies. And just like the crew of the Titanic, you may never know how bad it is until it’s too late.
R. Wade Younger, CSP
401 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
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