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You’ve Been Served. Customer Style.

December 21, 2011

We’ve split the atom, put man on the moon and made artificially intelligent mobile phones yet we still can’t quite hit the nail on the head when it comes to providing good, quality service to our customers.

The clichés of good customer service are well known.
“The customer is always right”
“Under promise and over-deliver”
“Listen and empathise”
“Be friendly”

Is it really that simple? In my opinion; yes, it damn well is. As such, I’ve compiled some of my thoughts based on my humble observations of late. Experiences of both exceptionally good customer service and particularly bad customer service. Most remarkably, in some cases I got both with the same service provider and in the same transaction. That’s like being warmly cuddled then slapped in the face.

I’ve deduced that there are four main reasons for why organisations are failing miserably at customer service.

1. Inconsistent System

If you’re going to give the aura of five-star silver service fanciness then act like it, too. Not just sometimes. All the time. I put more value in being consistent with the service you give your customer than the quality of it. It’s a classic case of aiming too high. When the bar is set too high any shortcoming, no matter how minor, will not go unnoticed.

However, if you are more realistic about the quality of service that you, your staff and/or your product can offer then you are more likely to give your customer and smoother experience. It may be an unremarkable one, but that is better than being remembered for the wrong reasons.

2. The Blame Game

Sh*t happens. We all know that. No one likes it, but it is what it is. So accept it. Accept responsibility and whatever you do, don’t start blaming everything and everyone else because it doesn’t help.

If you throw your hands in the air, I will assume that you just don’t care.

3. Too Cool for School

A little bit of diligence can go a long way. You don’t have to be ‘Nigel no-fun’, but make sure all the ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s are crossed. Australian readers will be familiar with hearing the old phrase “she’ll be right, mate” thrown around. While some confidence and optimism can and does help, it very quickly becomes undone if things go a little pear shaped.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

4. Yours Insincerely

Nobody likes a fake. Everyone can tell when they’re being shaken off and it is likely to hinder the situation. If you’re going to speak like the posh English butler of a billionaire you had better be a good actor (or indeed a posh English butler of a billionaire).

Being sincere and honest is most appreciated when dealing with a complaint or an issue that has been escalated. While mostly people can be won over with simple bribes in the form of gifts or discounts, if this has been done grudgingly or even with a hint of insincerity, it will stay with the customer.

I realise I have only scratched the surface of this. And that it goes deeper than just customer service. It comes down to basic decency as a human being. Being a better and bigger person will always help you provide better customer service and it will encourage others to reciprocate.

Have you got some customer service horror stories? From either side? Would love to hear about them in the comments, or via email or twitter.

I’m sure we’ll make the world a better place one happy customer at a time 🙂

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