Monday, November 19, 2012

The Purpose of Customer Service

I'm in the midst of moving.  The house, the businesses... it's chaotic and never as straight forward as it should be.  Issues arise concerning repairs that need to be made, furniture that no longer works in the new place, appliances that don't fit, services that can't (or won't) transfer to the new 'geographic' location which is only 5 minutes away.  I am frustrated, looking for help, seeking answers.

And then... I enter your store.  I have a question about whether you have a specific product that you can sell me.  It is not on your shelves.  I have looked.  I need to know if you can get it for me, I am willing to pay.  I need a yes/no answer to make me happy.  Should be simple... right?

There is a store full of associates, all of whom approach me asking if they can help.  The downside though?  They can't.  No one knows the answer and, apparently, no one can find the answer except the 'one guy' in a department they don't work in.  They quietly drift off, pulling out their cells, leaning against display cases, texting.  I am still without an answer because the 'one-guy' is busy chatting with another customer.

I get that.  He's busy.  If I were that customer I would want him to focus on me and not waste my time answering questions for everyone else but me.  Except...  he does nothing to acknowledge me in any way.  No eye contact to say 'hey, I know you're waiting, bear with me I will be there as soon as I can'... no raised hand to indicate 'give me 5 minutes and I'm all yours'...  nothing.

I continue to wait.  10 minutes and... nothing.  Nothing but a studious intent to not make eye contact or acknowledge me in any way.  20 minutes... 30.  40 minutes and... I'm gone.  I go home, go online, find my answer, make my purchase... from a competitor.

That associate went home feeling like he had done his job.  He likely made comments about the 'woman' who was in the store but walked out before he could get to her but, hey... not his fault!  He's only one guy and he was busy serving a customer...  that's his job.

In a very small-view way he is right.  However, in the bigger picture he doesn't even come close.  Customer service isn't about the 'one,' it's about the many.  Your business isn't and can't survive by only servicing the few.  You have to be more inclusive of others and find ways to make them feel that you care, you're interested and you're there to help.  At the end of the day, customer service is simply about how you make your customers feel.  Your product offerings, deals, prices, points rewards and return policy are all nice but they don't ensure future sales.  How you make the customer feel about doing business with you will.

That store has lost any future business from me on the basis of that one interaction (or lack of interaction more specifically).  A quick glance my way to acknowledge me, a slight apologetic grin, would have made all the difference.  Instead, I won't be back.  Perhaps not a big deal for them in the long term, I am only one customer.  However, if this is the way they train their staff, if this is representative of how they view customers, then I am likely one of many potential customers that will find what they need elsewhere.

Delivering great Customer Service isn't all that difficult and it doesn't take big money programs.  Think about how you want your customer to feel and then make it happen.  It isn't any more complicated then that.

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