What’s Happened to Real Customer Service in Today’s Market Place

Customer service can make or break your sales numbers. A 2011 American Express Survey found that as many as 78% of consumers chose to not complete a purchase due to a poor service experience.

This is an area where many businesses fail, and as a result, customer service falls short of expectations. When was the last time you called a company for service or to place an order and had someone actually answer the telephone? Or, as often is the case, you spend a considerable amount of time pressing one for English and then listening to a long list of instructions and then pressing buttons as you try to navigate the lengthy automated attendant process just to get someone on the line. And then, at the end of it all, you get a response along the lines of “Sorry, invalid extension. Goodbye – Click.” We’ve all been there.

Let’s be clear: Customers are not inconvenienced. They are the reason you are in business. If you want your business to grow and you want to retain the customers you have, you must make the customer a priority, and customer service is the key.

# 1: Leaders Must Put Customers First

Employees emulate the customer service values of the company leaders. If your leaders have a negative view of customers, then so will the employees.

For example, if the manager groans and says, “Ugh! I have to deal with Mr. Jones today,” then your employees will get the message that the manager really doesn’t want to deal with this customer and will adopt the same attitude toward their customers.

Customers should never be seen as aggravation. This negative attitude will shine through when you are trying to help the customer, even in small ways. We’ve all seen the eye rolls and heard the condescending tone or heavy sigh. It is best to make sure the attitude of everyone in the company, from the top down, is that the customer is the sole reason you are there doing what you do.

# 2: Give an Immediate Response

The Internet has turned us into a society that expects immediate responses. If you send an email, you likely expect a response within hours and not days later. This needs to be taken into consideration when figuring out the response system when a customer calls, emails, or uses the contact form on your website.

For example, I was looking to buy something on the Internet, and there was a button that said, “Click here for a quote.” I received the quote the next day and then received a follow-up call later that afternoon. And the call wasn’t just to make sure I received the quote. They called to answer any questions I might have, and as a result of that interaction, they got an upsell out of the transaction all because of these important things:

  • He was friendly and welcoming. I could tell he valued me.
  • He was knowledgeable of the product and answered every technical question I had.
  • He spoke good English and was easy to understand.

As a result, I am very pleased with the service and purchase and will buy from them again. Now that’s customer service.

However, it wasn’t that long ago that I had a customer service experience that completely turned me off. I needed some work done at my house and wanted an estimate to replace some concrete. I called four different companies and even called some of those more than once. Out of all of those calls, only one bothered to call me back, and he got the project. A few weeks later, one of my neighbors also needed some concrete work done and asked me who I used. Guess who got the referral and the job? The ones who didn’t call back missed out on the opportunity for a new customer and new business.

# 3: Make It Personal

Remember that phone call mentioned earlier where you punched in a lot of buttons and got nowhere? It is pretty frustrating to call, get an automated attendant, and not get anyone on the line. Even worse is when you press 9 for the employee directory, type in the name of someone you know for a fact works there, and then get a message that it’s an invalid entry. How about when you are told to push zero for the operator, and then you just get an answering machine to leave a message and never receive a callback? Frustrating, to say the least!

You can gain a lot of traction over your competition by making things personal and actually talking to your customer one-on-one. You can’t help them solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. You will only know what that problem is when you talk directly to the customer. What a concept!

Call the customer by name, seek out ways to give the customer excellent quality and service, and you will gain a customer for life, or at least for as long as you continue to offer good service.

# 4: Respect the Customer

We’ve lost respect for the consumer. Unfortunately, many companies believe it’s about them. The attitude is, “I’ll call you back when (or if) I get a chance.”

There are some businesses out there that only return phone calls during certain hours. I’ve known some organizations that only return calls at noon when they know everyone is at lunch or after 5 p.m. after everyone has left for the day. Now that’s an interesting concept. I’m a customer, and I want you to service me. But you’re going to do it on your terms? I don’t think so. I’ll take my business elsewhere.

The cable and appliance repair companies are the worst. If you need them to come out for a service call, they will schedule the call to be on-site between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., forcing you to give up your entire day waiting on them so that the transaction is convenient for them. That, to me, is not good customer service.

The truth is that people buy from people they trust. Part of being trusted is making things personal, caring about the customer’s needs, and taking the time to actually call them back and service those needs.

Customer service seems to be a dying art form.