Definition of Customer Service

Customer service is a common term we are all familiar with which means “one who aids or provides help to the purchaser of a good or service”.

Customer service is seen in all industries and across all demographics. It is important because if the purchasers of our goods and services don’t feel like they are taken care of, they will soon find another organization that can and will take care of their needs.

Successful organizations have figured out the importance of not only providing customer service (did you know lots of organizations have BAD customer service?) but providing outstanding customer service is what sets them apart from the rest.

Organizations that do a good job of this are able to develop loyal customers who return and sometimes bring their friends. Did you know that when someone has a bad experience they tell 10-15 people about it but when they have a good experience they may tell only 5 people?

We have all heard the horror stories of a bad service experience and as with anything else, the more a story is told the more likely it is that the facts will get distorted (did you ever play telephone?). So by the time the story gets to the 10th or 11th person, you can bet the facts are a bit exaggerated.  This is frightening because situations like this can really affect the public’s “perception” of an organization.  And the saddest fact is that typically, the organization isn’t even aware that an incident happened so they would have the opportunity to perform service recovery!

customer_serviceAs an example, there is a hospital in my town that has this very type of public perception. It doesn’t matter who you mention the name of the hospital to, there is a common response and “perception” that it is a bad hospital. I can honestly say I have never really heard a specific negative story about the hospital but like others, I have a negative perception but nothing to base it on. This is why it is critical to manage customer perceptions and make it easy for customers to give feedback within a structured Quality Management System.

A small percentage of customers are comfortable complaining when they have a bad experience, but those who are not, simply take their business elsewhere.

As an example, I went to the same physician for years and years. Over time the service the office staff gave patients had gotten so bad that I decided to change doctors because I just didn’t want to deal with his office staff any longer. There was no one incident that prompted my decision, it was merely an atmosphere of accepted rudeness, inefficiencies and incompetence that drove my decision. And the worst part of this entire incident is that this doctor never called me to ask why I left even after I called to have my medical records transferred to a different doctor’s office. Very sad both for me (because I really liked him as a doctor) but for him because he doesn’t even realize the experience his patients are having with his staff. He doesn’t ask so he doesn’t know.

You may be wondering why I didn’t complain. I did offer my help to him (because service quality was my profession at the time) during the course of the many years I went to him to help with his customer service. He did not seem interested.

An opposite example is an experience I had at a restaurant I went to for lunch with a friend. It is called Dewey’s Pizza in St. Louis. I met my friend there and we hadn’t seen each other in a long time so were very caught up in our time together. We ordered our lunch and when the waiter brought it out, my friend’s order was wrong. The cooks put the wrong meat on the order. The waiter apologized and took it back and promised to have it redone quickly. Time went by and we were enjoying each other’s company and soon her order came out and was wrong again!  This time the waiter was very embarrassed and apologized profusely and gave us his word to get it fixed. He also said instead of wasting the order he offered to wrap it to go for my friend. She knew her husband would eat it so she agreed. Finally, the order came out the way she had ordered it. We continued to enjoy our time together and when our bill came, the manager of the restaurant came out and explained that he did not charge us for her lunch, gave her the wrong order to go AND gave her a $25 gift card to come back!

We were both blown away. The funny thing is we were so engrossed with our catching up with each other we really didn’t care about the long delay in getting the correct order. We went back and enjoyed another lunch and I have told this story to countless people. Now in all fairness, had this been a work day and if we had been on a limited lunch hour this could have turned out much different but their response to the issue was immediate and thorough. This is a great example of Service Recovery.

Spending the time to know who the customers are, and putting systems and processes in place to meet their needs, is the key to maintaining and growing a customer base.

What do you do to enhance the customer experience?

photo by:  gantsfinancial


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