When Did Customer Service Go AWOL?

What’s happened to Customer Service today? Is it a casualty of our new and improved, instant gratification, automated and thus wondrous E-world?

I’ve noticed a drastic shift away from what used to be the #1 Business Rule: “Take care of the customer or someone else will.” In My View From the Cockpit I see many organizations where the customer is viewed as a nuisance, an inconvenience and interruption to daily routines. Simply put, they”re seen as a pain in the butt!

We need to remember that the customer is not the enemy. The customer is the one who purchases what we as businesses are peddling and prints our paychecks in the process. Do these things sound like inconveniences to you? What am I missing?

I’ve sat in meetings where customer letters or surveys were reviewed only to hear the leadership team discount the negative responses with comments along the lines of “they don’t know what they’re talking about” or “That’s not true.” Don’t these leaders realize that these perceptions of their business are the customer’s reality?

Here are some recent examples of today’s new and improved, wondrous Customer Service that I’e experienced:

  • Went to a warehouse store and couldn’t find what I needed and help was nowhere to be found. When I finally did find someone who worked there, their response was “That’s not department” before walking away!
  • Over the weekend the water heater in my basement sprung a leak. At 8 am Monday morning I called four  plumbers and in every case ended up leaving a voicemail. Can you believe that only one of them valued new business enough to call me back?
  • I walked into a client’s lobby and the receptionist continued texting on her iPhone without acknowledging my  presence for several minutes. Finally, without making eye contact, she pushed the sign-in log and a badge at  me without saying a word.
  • I called a manufacturing business last week and as is the norm today they had an automated attendant. What I found amazing was that the I couldn’t find the person I was looking for, so I hit ‘0’ for an operator and the recording said “That is not a valid extension. Goodbye.”  Followed by a dial tone.  That was a ‘disconnect’ in every sense of the word.

How did we allow Customer Service to deteriorate to this level? What’s happened to the #1 Rule and why do some organizations thrive at it while others fall flat on their face?

In My View From the Cockpit, the difference rests with the leadership of the organization. I’s also been my experience that the employees take on the character and personality of the leader and if the leader doesn’t care about the customer, then neither will the employees. That’s why I avoid taking out my frustrations on the individual providing the poor Customer Service. He/she is only emulating the leader.

To be successful today, business leaders need to get back to basics and make caring for a customer a top priority. It’s the leader’s responsibility to incorporate core Customer Service values into the company’s vision and strategy and then follow through to ensure that the customer is properly cared for and nurtured. It’s his/her responsibility to not only set the tone, but to lead the way, plotting the course and setting the example.

It’s time we get back to the #1 Business Rule and “Take care of the customer before someone else will.”

So what’s the Customer Service level in your organization – Active Duty or AWOL?